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Oklahoma City Gives More Funds to Minority Small Businesses

The city council has approved $2.75 million from the city’s CARES Act funding to support Black business owners who weren’t eligible for aid from federal pandemic relief programs.

(TNS) — A $2.75 million minority small business assistance program is set to start later this month in response to recent pleas for help from Black business owners who were unable to qualify for Oklahoma City's prior pandemic relief efforts.

The funding will be transferred from CARES Act funding that was passed by Congress and was allocated to cover city expenses related to responding to the pandemic.

Maurianna Adams , director of Progress OKC, citing several different studies, told the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday that minority businesses are getting hit harder than non-minority businesses.

"COVID-19 has transformed every facet of our lives," Adams said. "The disruptions to businesses were felt immediately and are having unprecedented consequences." The U.S. Small Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that 26 percent of small businesses in Oklahoma City surveyed indicated the pandemic has had a large negative effect on business and another 52 percent indicated a moderate negative impact.

"There is one group hit particularly hard," Adams said. "Minority owned small businesses have suffered disproportionately amid the COVID-19 crisis."

McKinsey & Co., a national management consulting firm, reported many minority owned small businesses are in industries more susceptible to pandemic disruptions. Even before the pandemic, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank noted minority-owned small businesses are significantly more likely to show signs of limited financial health in terms of profitability, credit scores and use of retained earnings as a primary funding source.

"While we know that minority-owned businesses play a vital role in our economy," Adams said. "It isn't always straight forward for them on how to obtain means for success for various reasons."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned in an August report minority-owned businesses are more likely to have been denied loans to help survive the pandemic. The organization reported minority-owned businesses face a 13 percent denial rate while non-minority businesses face an 8 percent denial rate.

The long-term disadvantages facing minority businesses is prompting the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber to draw up a proposal for long-term small business assistance that is expected to be presented to the city council in a few weeks.

The $2.75 million unanimously approved Tuesday by the city council is dedicated to businesses that have a 51 percent consulting and management interest from owners who are either African American or Black, Native American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian Pacific or Asian Indian.

Evan Fay , with the chamber's economic development office, said the $2.75 million will include $2 million for grants that will allow businesses with 25 or fewer employees to qualify for up to $25,000 each.

Fay said the remainder of the funding, $500,000 for technical assistance and business retrofits and $250,000 for economic recovery and resiliency planning are intended to help the owners beyond the current crisis.

Fay said a community response involving the Black chamber, Hispanic chamber, Community Action Agency, small business development centers and other organizations, will be launched to quickly review and disperse the aid to ensure the money is spent before the CARES Act deadline on Dec. 30.

Applications are set to begin on Oct. 26 and end on Dec. 1 with "rolling" payments that will provide assistance as applications are approved. The community wide response, Fay said, will be directed to helping minority small business owners navigate the application process.

"We want to make sure all the necessary documents and requirements are met so they can get assistance," Fay said.

Ward 7 Nikki Nice praised the response and said minority business owners already challenged before the pandemic have seen their plight exacerbated by being unable to participate in relief programs to date.

"This is what we've been wanting," Nice said. "It's what our community needs to continue the work of meeting the needs of our residents."

(c)2020 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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