SBA empowers Black entrepreneurs across Montana
As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Black History Month, it is fitting to acknowledge that small business owners are some of the strongest, most resilient people you will ever meet. With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting communities large and small nationwide, its impact has been felt in every sector of our economy.
The last 10 months have been especially challenging for America’s small businesses. That’s particularly true for minority-owned businesses facing unique challenges even in the best of times. The U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes Black entrepreneurs face socioeconomic and capital funding obstacles when starting and expanding a business. It is the SBA’s role to assist individuals to overcome inherent challenges and succeed.
The SBA is administering vital economic aid programs to provide a lifeline to millions of American small businesses, non-profits and their employees. The Paycheck Protection Program, COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Targeted EIDL Advance, Shuttered Venue Operators Grants and debt relief for existing agency borrowers are part of the nation’s largest economic relief efforts ever.
The SBA continues to support initiatives that benefit our underserved communities to address barriers to access to capital, business training, government contracts, and disaster recovery assistance. The agency also called on its lending partners to redouble efforts to assist eligible borrowers in these communities. SBA is working to ensure economic aid programs are accessible to all eligible entities, including those hit hardest, while protecting program integrity and ensuring that aid is released as quickly as possible.
The Paycheck Protection Program helps millions of businesses impacted by the pandemic. This program provides emergency capital to sustain our nation’s small businesses and retain their employees. One of the agency’s first priorities, once the Economic Aid Act was signed into law, was to make sure firms in underserved and minority communities got a first chance at receiving one of these forgivable loans.
SBA partnered with Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions to ensure PPP funding reached all areas in need of relief during the pandemic. These organizations work to expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for residents and businesses.
Another way SBA assists minority entrepreneurs is through its more than 100 Women’s Business Centers nationwide which assist women in starting and growing small businesses. In Bozeman, the Montana Women’s Business Center provides a full range of services for women entrepreneurs at all stages of planning, implementation and growth.
For those interested in contracting with the federal government, women-owned business certification helps provide a level playing field for women business owners, as the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses certified as women-owned. This initiative compliments SBA’s 8(a) program to assist socially and economically disadvantaged business owners in accessing federal contracts.
Other mentoring programs include SCORE, a network of thousands of volunteer business counselors around the country who mentor and educate small business owners, our statewide network of 11 Montana Small Business Development Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Center in Billings.
At the SBA, our role is to support all entrepreneurs scale-up their business and recover from today’s challenges. This is especially true as we celebrate national Black History Month. For more information on SBA’s programs and services please visit www.sba.gov, follow us on Twitter @SBA_montana, and subscribe to our e-newsletter at www.sba.gov/updates.
Christopher Chavez is the SBA’s Regional Communications Director based in Denver. He oversees the agency’s communications efforts in a six state region.