May 07, 2020

Advocates, Experts Hail Harris & Pressley’s Bill To Save Small, Neighborhood Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) on Wednesday announced the Saving Our Street (SOS) Act, which supports small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis by providing them with grants of up to $250,000.

The bill received praise from a number of small business advocates:

“COVID19 has disproportionately impacted the black community, and the federal response to ameliorating the effects of COVID19 needs to reflect those gaps. NAN supports all efforts to promote economic rights in the black community. We saw that the previous stimulus packages left out black business owners and black workers. The Saving our Street bill is an important piece of the puzzle and another step in the right direction to further ensure support for black businesses at this critical time,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, Founder and President, National Action Network.

“Our small Mom and Pop shops, from the Hair Salon to the corner clothing store have been putting food on the table for families in struggling communities for years. After decades of being shut out of access to fair credit, now they are shuttered by pandemic to keep us safe, in communities with some of the highest death rates from COVID-19. Main Street in low-income communities have earned the right to survive and the economy needs them to do just that. First come first serve loan programs don't serve the hardest hit but this bill will change that. We need Congress to work quickly on this vital effort to save Main Street,” said Maya Wiley, Co-Founder, Flatbush Thrives, Former MWBE Director for the City of New York.

“It is well documented that public policy has contributed to our dramatic racial wealth gap and rendered black and brown businesses under-capitalized with little resources to withstand the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kudos to Senator Harris and Representative Pressley for drafting a bill, which by design and implementation, reverses that trend by providing direct federal grants to targeted micro business and ensuring a federal response of greater economic inclusion,” said Professor Darrick Hamilton, Economist and Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.

"Businesses owned by people of color across the country contribute enormously to the economy, but many have been left out of the relief effort so far. Senator Harris' bill closes this gap by providing relief to all businesses that need it to ensure that they can survive the pandemic and take part in the recovery efforts to come,” said Ashley Harrington, Federal Advocacy Director, Center for Responsible Lending.

“For the millions of micro, small, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses left out of the Paycheck Protection Program or shuffled to the back of the line, the Saving Our Street Act provides a critical lifeline. SOS is exactly the kind of targeted, streamlined support small businesses need to make it through this crisis. The dual approach of direct funding and targeted recipients, rather than targeted lenders are key to making sure the right support gets to all communities,” said Amanda Ballantyne, Executive Director, Main Street Alliance.

“Our small business community is in a state of crisis, and unfortunately, the smallest businesses—that comprise more than 90% of all employer firms—have been left behind by the federal stimulus programs to date,” said Xiomara Peña, National Latino Entrepreneurship Director and California Program Director at Small Business Majority. “Whether due to lack of previous banking relationships, resources, or because taking on more debt would crush many small businesses, an outsized portion of federal aid has gone to larger firms. Meanwhile, business owners of color, women-owned firms, and rural businesses have been left to worry if their businesses will ever recover. We commend Senator Harris for taking bold action to ensure that assistance reaches the smallest, most vulnerable businesses by authoring legislation to establish a small business grants program. The Saving our Street Act is the type of forethought that we need to help small businesses survive and recover from COVID-19.”

"Americans for Financial Reform applauds Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) for putting forth this important relief measure. This bill is a step towards correcting the historic discrimination against business owners of color as well as supplements the poorly designed Paycheck Protection Program in the CARES Act. AFR urges Congress to pass this needed bill in order to ensure these vital business leaders can keep their companies functioning, their employees employed and their communities thriving,” said Rion Dennis, Legislative & Advocacy Director, Americans for Financial Reform.

“COVID-19 has made the discrepancies that exist in society all the more vivid, and seeing very small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses, have difficulty accessing the financial assistance provided by Congress is a troubling illustration of that,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The Saving our Street Act would help correct this disparity and is exactly the kind of relief we need to keep the businesses that power our communities open.”

"California small businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants have been shut out of the federal PPP loan program as a result of historical structural inequities in our banking system. As a result, COVID19 threatens to close these businesses forever and induce a massive transfer of wealth from communities of color that have struggled for more than 10 years to dig themselves out of the 2008 financial crisis. We are pleased that this bill will finally bring transparency to federal relief efforts, so we can be assured relief is reaching, not ignoring, the hardest hit communities. Immediate support is needed now in the form of grants to begin to right a history of redlining in communities. History will judge us by how we responded to the crisis of this moment, let us invest in the people who will lift us out of this crisis,” said Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, Executive Director of the California Reinvestment Coalition.

“The COVID-19 Pandemic has exposed long existing inequities within our society. The Saving Our Street Act provides critical temporary relief to small business owners who are often afterthoughts and excluded—people of color, veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals and people with a conviction history. This bill provides emergency targeted assistance to these employers who keep communities thriving,” said Breon N. Wells, President, The Daniel Initiative.

“Funding small businesses should not be a complicated, unsolvable equation that only well-resourced, well-connected, over-banked publicly traded companies can decipher.  The Paycheck Protection Program was a "free money" dog whistle to entrepreneurs who traditionally get access to funds (even while having cash on hand) and a stumbling block for America's micro-businesses - especially Black-owned businesses - that have traditionally bootstrapped their way into business ownership. Public programs like this one should be a safe haven for minority businesses who don't have personal assets to keep doors open, and not a blank check, just in case measure for corporations to sign,” said Kezia Williams, Founder, The Black Upstart.

“Our micro businesses are the heart and soul of Western North Carolina. Entrepreneurship and business ownership is one way traditionally marginalized communities, immigrants, formerly incarcerated and women are able to have dignified jobs and build wealth for their families. We desperately need more business owners and community leaders. Small businesses serve our local needs and help other local firms stay in business. They are a path to generational wealth and rebuilding the middle class,” said Franzi Charen, Director, Asheville Grown.

"Our small businesses need help. We are providing support every day to many who can't access the funding that they need to survive the pandemic. The SOS Act will close the gaps in the current program and do so with equity at the fore. We commend Senator Harris for her leadership and commitment to the communities she represents,” said Tara Lynn Gray, CEO, Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.

Our network of 100+ restaurants and other food businesses have been decimated by the COVID closures. These businesses, primarily owned by women, immigrants and people of color, were already severely undercapitalized and running on very slim margins before the pandemic.  They can't afford to take on debt, and programs like PPP are not a solution for businesses that have no idea IF they will ever be able to re-open, let alone when.  They need grants, not loans.  Without a bailout, these businesses, that are the heartbeat of every main street district in every community across the country, will close forever, and the fabric of our cities will be lost,” said Jen Faigel, Executive Director, CommonWealth Kitchen.

“As generations of entrepreneurial wealth in Black and Latinx communities stand at risk of complete loss, Amplify Latinx is in full support of grant relief that can help sustain local, small businesses through the crisis and position them for success in the economic recovery,” said Rosario Ubiera-Miyana, Executive Director, Amplify Latinx.

"Minority-owned businesses were already in a precarious position before COVID-19 hit our shores," said Segun Idowu, Executive Director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA). "The Saving Our Street Act provides a timely and much-needed lifeline for a business community that employs millions of Americans and contributes trillions of dollars to the national economy. I am grateful for the leadership of Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Ayanna Pressley in filing legislation that will protect minority-owned businesses and stabilize our communities."

“Entrepreneurs of color have been disproportionately affected by a lack of access to capital. There are numerous historical reasons for this unfortunate reality, including the inability to be approved for a loan. Now thanks to the Saving our Street (SOS) Act, the necessary support for our small and micro-enterprises required to continue to exist after the devastating effect of COVID-19 will be available. Thank you, Senator Harris, for standing up for our small and micro-businesses,” said Edwin A. Lombard III, President/CEO, California Black Chamber of Commerce.

"While the greater small business community has been hit hard as a result of COVID-19, Asian Pacific Islander (API) owned businesses were hit harder -- and far sooner than most other businesses, as early as January of this year. In San Diego County, the results have been devastating to the 30,000 locally owned API small businesses and the more than 50,000 jobs they provide. We must do better to provide fair and equitable access to capital to our minority owned small businesses and entrepreneurs. Saving our Street (SOS) Act supports a stronger pathway to recovery for a more inclusive economy,” said Jason Paguio, President and CEO, Asian Business Association San Diego.

“Small businesses are big employers in California and nationally, effectively functioning as the economic lifeblood of America. Mom and pop shops make our country strong and our communities vibrant with creative approaches and solid safe spaces to help families and the local culture thrive. The SOS Act will ensure that small businesses on mainstreet, side street and off the street don't fail because we only have prioritized multibillion dollar corporations. We need to savings the American economy and culture by supporting our local independent small businesses!” said Rey Leon, Founder & Executive Director, The Latino Equity Advocacy & Policy Institute.

“The Saving Our Street Act provides necessary taxpayer-funded relief to the job creators most likely to hire locally and bet on justice-involved and diverse young job seekers who have limited access to economic opportunity. Their survival is essential to an inclusive recovery and growth,” said Jeffery Wallace, President and CEO, LeadersUp.

"Behind every micro-business hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic is a family in deep economic crisis, surviving by depleting their savings and over-extending their credit," said José Quiñonez, Founder and CEO of the Mission Asset Fund. "The Saving Our Street Act will provide much-needed relief in the form of grants to ensure that those left behind from the Paycheck Protection Program can also have a fighting chance to recover and thrive. The SOS Act is equity in action. MAF applause Senator Harris for her leadership to ensure that the heartbeat of our communities can continue beyond this crisis."

“The earlier than anticipated exhaustion of the $350 billion relief program in the CARES Act meant to help small businesses reeling from the COVID-19 health crisis is a clear indication that the need for small business relief was much greater than anticipated by Congress,” said Maria S. Salinas, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “We continue to hear from micro and veteran businesses that they were excluded from the initial relief program because they faced structural barriers to acquiring these loans. The lack of access to traditional financial institutions left them in the sidelines. This proposed legislation, Saving Our Street Act, will provide a critical lifeline to these businesses struggling to stay alive. The legislation is exactly the kind of assistance that micro and veteran businesses need to rebound from this crisis.”

“The Orange County Black Chamber enthusiastically endorses this Saving Our Street Act. For over 37 years the Orange County Black Chamber has had the axiom of Access to Information for our African American businesses, our diverse ethnic community businesses and for our veteran-owned businesses. This opportunity to help our restaurants, barbershops, beauty salons, owner-operated businesses, minority contractors and sub contractors and valuable non-profits, who serve as beacons of opportunities, for our communities, can really use the support and relief. We are here to help improve, enhance and grow our communities businesses. The Orange County Black Chamber applauds Senator Kamala Harris for her efforts to support micro businesses that can use this legislation from the Saving Our Street Act grants,” said Robert V. “Bobby” McDonald, President & CEO Orange County Black Chamber.

“California’s return to economic growth depends upon the recovery of small business. Yet small businesses face far greater barriers to growth, such as: high healthcare costs, government regulation, tax burden and compliance, capitalization and cash flow, and contracting. For minority owned enterprises, these obstacles are even harder to overcome. Cultural and language barriers, historic and systemic racism and ethnocentrism, and location traits place minority enterprises and their communities at a persistent disadvantage. Policy makers must fast-track policies and investments that assure equal opportunity and access to all. The Saving our Street Act contains answers that our Asian-American small businesses need and deserve,” said Pat Fong Kushida, President and CEO, CalAsian Chamber of Commerce.

"A recovery fund is essential and critical for underrepresented businesses. The closing of these businesses and loss of revenues will devastate the economic pillars that support underserved communities of color. Saving Our Street Act will not allow our crisis to dilute our vision. This targeted bill will help eradicate historical barriers that prevent underrepresented businesses from creating generational wealth and community economic stimulus. I honor, commend and support Senator Harris for filing legislation that provide an inclusive and equitable opportunity for underrepresented businesses to recover, reopen and rebuild,” said Donna DeBerry, President/CEO, Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce.

“The existing infrastructure in our financial system disadvantages truly small businesses—many of which are women, veteran, and minority-owned. The SOS Act exemplifies the type of prescriptive action needed to direct resources to the businesses that have not had equal access to public or private capital, but are the lifeblood of communities across the country. More than 94% of Black businesses are sole proprietorships, so without targeted efforts like these, initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program exclude the vast majority of Black businesses in America," said David Clunie, Executive Director, Black Economic Alliance.

Bill text of the SOS Act can be found here.

A one-pager on the SOS Act can be found here.