The economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus has placed an enormous strain on American businesses. In communities of color in and around Tampa Bay, Florida, the pain has been acute. As the pandemic took hold, 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. The Pinellas County Urban League reports that many Black-owned businesses, especially small ones with fewer than five employees, were shut out of the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loans, often because they lacked the resources to apply.
In the face of these challenges, the Pinellas County Urban League is working to strengthen and protect minority-owned small businesses in the county through economic development programs and its Financial Empowerment Center. The Center offers 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 will help the Financial Empowerment Center attract new staff, upgrade its technological infrastructure, and expand its reach to support minority businesses and communities, now and in the future. Support for this program is part of Bank of America’s five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.