Rep. Wheatley is working on a $10 billion business relief package “designed to help preserve and bolster small business owners, the backbone of our commonwealth’s economy.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the second round of grant applications through the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance Program were announced. This program, which is designed to support small businesses most impacted by the pandemic, provides grants from $5,000 to $50,000 to these businesses.
However, I know of many business owners in Allegheny County who are frustrated—and rightfully so, because so few of them received funding during the first round of applications.
A total of 859 historically disadvantaged businesses applied, with only 218 receiving an award. Just over 1,700 “Main Street” businesses applied and 244 of those were awarded Funds.
When you look at the national Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it’s even worse. Among those who received PPP loans: 400 country clubs and golf courses, private jet companies, Kanye West, and friends of Jared Kushner. About 90% of businesses owned by women, Black, Indigenous and people of color did not receive PPP loans.
I want to know why. This is beyond extremely unfair and heartless, and this needs to be dealt with – immediately.
Let me be clear: I hear the anger and frustration from local business owners, especially those considered to be historically disadvantaged, for the lack of support they’ve received during the ongoing pandemic. And frankly, I don’t blame them one bit. Our minority-owned businesses are hurting badly, and they are among the most severely impacted and the ones who need help now to stay in business. These same business owners are also anticipating significant decreases in revenue in the next year.
When you look at the last decade, minority businesses accounted for more than 50% of the two million new businesses nationwide, creating nearly five million jobs. At present, there are now more than four million minority-owned companies in the United States, with annual sales totaling close to $700 billion. But despite that growth, major disparities remain when it comes to their access to capital and other business opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that disparity even worse. Furthermore, national figures show that half of Black-owned businesses nationwide will close permanently due to the pandemic.
This is unacceptable. Our local, minority-owned businesses are on life support. Decisions on funding must be made faster and we also need major, immediate systemic changes to address the racial inequalities that have put these businesses at a major disadvantage.
Please know that I am undeterred in providing help to our local businesses in need. I am working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to level the playing field, which includes my ongoing work on a $10 billion business relief package that would set aside $5 billion for small businesses, $3 billion for minority businesses, $1.5 billion for the food and hospitality industry, and $500 million for sole proprietors. The package is designed to help preserve and bolster small business owners, the backbone of our commonwealth’s economy.
We need to help them not just survive but grow and prosper. We need to ensure small businesses and minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged-owned businesses in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania have the same economic opportunities as others.
We must remove these existing barriers now, because this will benefit them and our entire economy.
If you need assistance on this issue or any other concern, please reach out to me via email at email@example.com or call The People’s Office at 412-471-7760.