August is Black business month — the month that we recognize and celebrate the impact and the value that Black businesses have on our communities and our country. This year is different however. Black-owned businesses are in crisis and have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Black-owned businesses are almost twice as likely to be forced to shutter during the pandemic, according to a study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The report states that “Black businesses experienced the most acute decline, with a 41% drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32% and Asian business owners dropped by 26%.”
Black businesses are also largely being left out of federal support efforts.
In April, the Center For Responsible Lending (CRL) found that 95% of Black owned businesses stood little chance of getting a Paycheck Protection Program loan, the federal program aimed at supporting small businesses during the pandemic.
That’s why Robert F. Smith worked with Congress at the beginning of the pandemic to help ensure that capital was being distributed to communities that needed it the most, with a particular focus on African-American communities. In June, Smith stated in an interview that he believes that “ensuring the survival of Black businesses is one way to break down at least one of the systemic barriers that he thinks exist in the United States.”
“I have seen a systemic underdevelopment of the African American community in a few areas, such as economic justice [including] access to capital, debt and equity, education, health care, covid-19 and now equitable justice,” Smith said. “I think I can help with each of these. We all can. And I will do that as part of my life’s mission.”