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OP-ED: It’s Critical to Support Small and BIPOC-owned Businesses

By Pamela Dover

While the pandemic’s ripple effect has impacted many businesses, a National Bureau of Economic Research from June 2020 revealed Black, Indigenous and People of Color-owned (BIPOC) organizations have taken a bigger hit. Nationally, the number of Black business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April — a 41% loss in a couple of months — while the number of Latinx business owners dropped from 2.1 million to 1.4 million (32%) from February to March 2020.

COVID-19 is not the only challenge impacting small and BIPOC-owned businesses, of course. They also face old and new difficulties due to systemic social and economic injustices, civil and social unrest, and environmental events — and these ongoing inequities have been further highlighted during the pandemic, including in our community.

An Aug. 2020 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed businesses in Wayne County did not have appropriate access to coronavirus-relief federal loans. The report noted Black-owned businesses across the country saw “huge disparities in access to federal relief funds and a higher rate of business closures.” Additionally, the Detroit Free Press found only 11.6% of Black-owned firms in Wayne County had received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program through June 2020.

For their small businesses to survive over the next few years, BIPOC business owners will need to employ all of their skills, creativity, resources and capacities to stay viable and thrive — but the onus should not be entirely on them.

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. When they don’t make it, the entire country pays the price: skyrocketing unemployment rates, reduced consumer spending and less optimistic long-term forecasts for all businesses, among other effects. But when they succeed, we all succeed.

That’s why companies with more resources should play a role in supporting small and minority-owned businesses — and why Comcast created a new initiative, Comcast RISE, in October 2020 to help these businesses address their challenges and succeed over the long term.

The first wave of RISE — which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment” — granted marketing, creative, media and technology services to small businesses owned by underrepresented groups. More than 700 Black-owned small businesses received marketing and technology services, including 20 based right here in Detroit.

The second wave of the program just kicked off this month, giving eligible BIPOC-owned small businesses located in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck (as well as in four other cities across the country severely impacted by COVID-19) the chance to apply for direct grants of $10,000. One hundred recipients will be selected locally for a total of $1 million dollars awarded.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re one of these small business owners. If your BIPOC-owned business is eligible — that is, at least 51% BIPOC owned, independently owned and operated, registered as a business in the U.S., in operation for more than three years, with one to 25 employees, and located within Comcast’s Detroit coverage area, which includes the City of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park— simply fill out the form on www.comcastrise.com/apply/ between March 1 and 14, 2021.

Many BIPOC-owned businesses have suffered from lack of access to capital. This is an opportunity to leverage a program that will provide capital without many of the challenging criteria, because Comcast aimed to make the application process for these grants as easy as possible. We want businesses to gain the much-needed financial support that can help them stay viable. Their success is paramount to our economy and to the success of our country as a whole.

We at Comcast are hoping Detroit-area BIPOC businesses will take advantage of the opportunity to potentially obtain one of these grants. We know the past year was difficult, traumatic and tragic for so many people and businesses within our community, and 2021 will bring its own share of challenges. And we know Comcast, alone, can’t remedy complex, systemic issues. But we are deeply committed to helping to drive change and begin the long process of correcting social and economic injustices.

Through Comcast RISE, we hope to create sustainable impact and meaningfully support the small businesses which are shaping our communities. It’s not just about the economy. It’s about ensuring , diversity and inclusion, and it’s the right thing to do.

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