By: Michael Vallante
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest that has been taking place in some cities, the impact has been felt in every sector of our economy. There has never been a more challenging time for America’s small business. That’s especially true for minority-owned businesses who face unique challenges even in the best of times.
As the U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator to the Pacific Rim area, I understand that supporting the Black community includes investing in Black-owned businesses and supporting Black entrepreneurs across every town in America.
We hear from Black-owned businesses of the socioeconomic and capital funding challenges with starting and expanding a business. Our goal is to work with Black entrepreneurs to overcome these entrepreneurship challenges.
The Paycheck Protection Program was created to assist businesses economically impacted by the pandemic. This forgivable loan program has provided over 4.6 million small business loans totaling more than $500 billion to ensure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans stay connected to their jobs. This program is dedicated to providing emergency capital to sustain our nation’s small businesses and retain their employees. The deadline to apply for this program is just days away. Small businesses that have not yet applied have until June 30th to do so. More than $100 billion is still available.
Of the PPP funding, SBA partnered specifically with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to ensure that funding reaches all communities in need of relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. CDFIs and MDIs work to expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses. Together, these lenders have originated more than $17 billion in dedicated fundsto small businesses in low-income communities.
Other ongoing programs that SBA has available include Women’s Business Centers to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. Across the U.S., Black women start their own business at record rates. These centers provide a full range of services for women entrepreneurs at all stages of planning, implementation and growth.
For those interesting in contracting with the federal government, Women-owned business certification helps provide a level playing field for women business owners, as the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses certified as women-owned. Another valuable resource is the Mentor-Protégé Program, designed for small businesses to learn from an experienced government contractor
Other mentoring programs include SCORE, a network of thousands of volunteer business counselors around the country who mentor and educate small business owners. It’s a free mentoring and education program for business owners to learn from others who have been through the entrepreneurship journey. This program also seeks mentors from the Black community to better assist Black entrepreneurship as they better understand the obstacles of Black entrepreneurs.
For businesses seeking to expand to international markets, Export Assistance Centers help small businesses by providing information on how to export, participate in foreign trade missions and trade shows, translate websites, and design marketing campaigns.These and many other SBA resources are available online at SBA.gov, including information about upcoming webinars to assist entrepreneurs in overcoming common business obstacles and today’s unprecedented challenges.
As the Regional Administrator for the Pacific Rim for SBA, and as Associate Administrator for the Office of Field Operations for our agency, SBA is ready to assist, whether in-person, on the phone, or virtually through a webinar, we are here for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
At the SBA, our role is to support entrepreneurs in achieving their dream of owning a business, scaling-up their business, and recover from today’s unprecedented challenges.
Michael Vallante, U.S. Small Business Administration’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Field Operations, overseeing the 68 district offices and nine Regional Administrators; and Regional Administrator for Region IX, overseeing the agency’s programs and services in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam