The economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus continues to place an enormous strain on American businesses. In communities of color in and around Tampa Bay, Florida, the pain was especially acute. When the pandemic took hold in 2020, 95% of businesses in majority Black neighborhoods had a cash buffer of just 14 days or less, according to the Tampa Bay Partnership, a coalition of business leaders.1 In majority white areas, fewer than 1 in 3 businesses were that cash strapped.
In the face of challenges like these, the Pinellas County Urban League went to work to strengthen and protect minority-owned small businesses in the county through economic development programs and its Financial Empowerment Center. The Center continues to offer programs to train business owners in the skills essential for successful economic growth in their communities, including business credit and real estate finance analysis techniques, negotiating and problem-solving tactics, and deal structuring approaches.
A two-year, $200,000 grant from Bank of America helped the Financial Empowerment Center attract new staff, upgrade its technological infrastructure, and expand its reach to support minority businesses and communities. Support for this program is part of Bank of America’s five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.