Wheatley: Minority-owned businesses need vital help, support now

Urges colleagues, state officials to act quickly

HARRISBURG, Aug. 11 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, issued the following statement regarding urgent help needed for minority-owned businesses:

“I hear the anger and frustration from my local business owners, especially those who are considered to be historically disadvantaged, for the lack of support they’ve received during the ongoing pandemic. And frankly, I don’t blame them.

“Our minority-owned businesses are hurting, and they are among the most severely impacted and the ones who need help now to stay in business. These same business owners are also anticipating significant decreases in revenue in the next year.

“In the last decade, minority businesses accounted for more than 50% of the 2 million new businesses nationwide, creating nearly 5 million jobs. At present, there are now more than 4 million minority-owned companies in the U.S., with annual sales totaling close to $700 billion. But despite that growth, major disparities remain when it comes to their access to capital and other business opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that disparity even worse. Furthermore, national figures show that half of black-owned businesses nationwide will close permanently due to the pandemic.

“This is unacceptable.

“This week, the second round of grant applications through the COVID-19 Relief PA Statewide Small Business Assistance Program were announced. This program, which is designed to support small businesses most impacted by the pandemic, provides grants to these businesses, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

“However, I know of many business owners in Allegheny County who are frustrated and rightfully so, because so few of them received funding during the first round of funding. A total of 859 historically disadvantaged businesses applied, with only 218 receiving an award. Just over 1,700 Main Street businesses applied and 244 of those were awarded funds.

“Looking at the national Paycheck Protection Program, it’s even worse. Among those who received PPP loans: 400 country clubs and golf courses, private jet companies, Kanye West and friends of Jared Kushner. Ninety percent of businesses owned by women, Black, Indigenous and people of color did not receive PPP loans.

“My question is this: Why? This is extremely unfair and heartless, and this needs to change – immediately.

“These local, minority-owned businesses are on life support. Decisions on funding must be made faster, but we also need major, immediate systemic changes to address the racial inequalities that have put these businesses at a major disadvantage.

"I'm working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to level the playing field and I remain undeterred. That includes my ongoing work on a $10 billion business relief package that would set aside $5 billion for small businesses, $3 billion for minority businesses, $1.5 billion for the food and hospitality industry and $500 million for sole proprieters. The package is designed to help preserve and bolster small business owners, the backbone of our commonwealth's economy.

"We need to help them not just survive but grow and prosper. We need to ensure small businesses and minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged-owned businesses in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania have the same economic opportunities as others.

"It's imperative we remove existing barriers because this benefits them and our entire economy."