Distressed Immigrant Businesses – The Bay State Banner
The way out of the pandemic will be different for every business owner. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) hosted a virtual roundtable on Monday with U.S. Representatives Joe Kennedy III and Seth Moulton to highlight the struggles faced by Black and Brown immigrant business owners and what they need. to remain viable.
Data from Amplify Latinx, co-founded by Betty Francisco, describes the needs of immigrant business owners, about 1,800 of whom responded to the organization’s statewide survey. Not only were fewer Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans approved for Latinx businesses, fewer Latinx businesses have chosen to apply.
“And despite the differences in loan amounts,” Francisco said, “81% of white homeowner PPP loans were approved, compared to 71% for black-owned businesses and 73% for Latino-owned businesses. “
Francisco has also worked with more than 500 companies to help them apply for and access their loans, connecting them with banks and defending them.
The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), which advocates for the interests of black-owned businesses in the Commonwealth, also conducted a study in early March to determine the impact before Massachusetts closed due to COVID-19. Over 60% of business owners, even at this time, said they had supply chain issues, over 60% said they had cash reserves that could last up to 90 days or less, and about half were already planning to lay off their staff.
“Because this survey was conducted about 115 days ago, we know the numbers in each of these categories are around 100%,” said Segun Idowu, executive director of BECMA. Idowu says black businesses are already in a “precarious position” due to lack of access to resources, so BECMA has partnered with Berkshire Bank to provide a line of credit of up to $ 50,000 to member businesses.
In collaboration with Amplify Latinx, BECMA has created an online marketplace called “Protect MA,” which directly connects black and brown businesses with suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE). Idowu urged members of Congress to call for support for Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Ayanna Pressley’s Saving Our Street Act, which provides federal support for microenterprises of up to $ 250,000.
“A big part of the reason we don’t see many of our companies suing [PPP] is the fact that it is a loan. And understanding the terms is difficult for many of our businesses. So we need to make sure to create a reserve specifically for black and brown. [business owners],” he said.
Kennedy agreed that things must change before small businesses can successfully recover. He said there are considerable structural barriers for wineries belonging to an older generation where English is not the first language. Access to capital is a problem for many.
He noted that he had constituents who were working on manufacturing PPE and were willing to do it, but he cannot get government contracts to support this work.
“If the federal response was tied to the local community that we were hoping for, you wouldn’t see some of this ineffectiveness,” he said.
When asked to present a call to action for Congress, Francisco said, “Local and state governments need to come together and figure out what this long-term investment strategy is that can help businesses survive. . And then go into recovery and even though we know there is potentially going to be a second [wave]. “
Idowu added that at the federal level, “intentionally investing in black and brown businesses,” especially in the areas that lawmakers represent, is most important.