Business group offers pandemic grants to Seattle-area Black-owned businesses

Business group offers pandemic grants to Seattle-area Black-owned businesses

Tabor 100, a business group with a nearly 20-year history of support for the Seattle area’s Black- and minority-owned businesses, will begin offering grants to Black-owned businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — many of which have been left out of state and federal coronavirus relief programs.

Tabor launched its Black Business Equity Fund this week with nearly $1.3 million contributed by Amazon, the City of Seattle, Facebook, Puget Sound Energy, the Seattle Foundation and Vulcan. Half the fund will go to grants; the rest will support small-business training offered through Tabor’s Economic Development Hub.

The group, which aims to raise an additional $3.2 million for the fund, hasn’t yet determined the size of the grants or how it will select recipients, said Tabor 100 president Ollie Garrett.

“Seeing how these businesses are struggling during the pandemic, I’m passionate about doing what I can to help,” Garrett said. Minority-owned businesses, and Black-owned businesses in particular, have received less federal coronavirus assistance than their white-owned counterparts — though the precise size of the gap is unclear because the federal Paycheck Protection Program did not require applicants to submit demographic data.

But of the 14% of PPP loan recipients that did include demographic data with their applications, only 1.9% identified as Black-owned businesses, compared with 83% that identified as white-owned. (Overall, roughly 9.5% of businesses in the country are Black-owned.)

Minority-owned businesses faced challenges accessing federal funds that white-owned business did not, according to a slew of recent studies.

Some lacked existing relationships with banks, which prioritized PPP applications for large- and medium-sized businesses, usually white-owned, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. Bank employees offered Black applicants less help with their PPP applications, a matched-pair study from the nonprofit National Community Reinvestment Coalition found. And despite instructions from Congress that the Small Business Administration prioritize minority applicants in the lineup for federal relief money, the agency’s inspector general found it did no such thing.

At the state level, of the $5 million in coronavirus aid in the first round of Working Washington grants distributed by Washington’s Department of Commerce, nearly $2.1 million went to women-, veteran- or minority-owned businesses, according to spokesperson Penny Thomas. Those businesses received on average $5,852 — less than the overall average grant award of $6,399.

On Garrett’s desk, she said, is a stack of dozens of unfulfilled applications for state aid from minority-owned businesses.

Lackluster aid to minority-owned businesses has led many to shutter for good. Nationwide, 41% of Black-owned businesses closed during the first three months of the pandemic, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the University of California at Santa Cruz estimated.

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