Next week, when President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office, he’ll be handed the reins of a country in dire need of an economic spark. COVID-19 has done more than just ravage American employment and small businesses; it has also deepened existing inequities. Last Friday’s jobs report revealed that women suffered all of December’s net 140,000 job losses — an outsized share by Black and Latinx women.
Though the challenges America faces are vast, new leadership in Washington, D.C. brings the possibility of renewed opportunity — not just to end the raging pandemic, but to rebuild better, taking into account centuries of inequity and injustice. The symbols of white supremacy displayed at last week’s deadly riots at the Capitol served as yet another reminder of how deeply racism is embedded in the fabric of American society.
The urgent work to dismantle systemic racism must begin with a careful understanding of the economic factors that have allowed it to continue, and which have been both further exposed and accentuated by COVID-19.
That understanding, which underpins Start Us Up’s Rebuilding Better COVID-19 response, a forthcoming update of America’s New Business Plan, andPresident-elect Biden’s own Build Back Better plan, must be a guiding light for American policymakers — both Democrats and Republicans. It isn’t enough to simply curb the unemployment wave that led to December’s startling jobs revelation. Overall economic growth and sustainability suffers when systemic barriers keep large segments of entrepreneurs from economic security and expanding opportunities for careers. Reforms must address those systemic factors to support entrepreneurs as they rebuild an economy that works for everyone.
President-elect Biden and members of his incoming economic team have signaled an intention to do so. At her introduction, Isabel Casillas Guzman, nominee for Small Business Administrator, spoke of COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on entrepreneurs of color, consistent with historic disparities. President-elect Biden did so too, noting the lack of access many Black and Brown entrepreneurs had to small business relief.
But it only matters if rhetoric gives way to concrete action.
Among other recommendations, America’s New Business Plan calls on the president to:
- Establish clear goals for all federal capital access programs, including the number of new entrepreneurs who access capital (disaggregated by race, gender, socioeconomic class, and geography), revenues generated, new jobs created and sustained, and customer experience feedback.
It’s critical that these goals guide the COVID-19 recovery, especially as relief flows to stimulate the economy. Entrepreneurs of color cannot afford another round of assistance that is not made accessible and delivered equitably.
To that end, it is also important that the administration takes legitimate efforts to ensure entrepreneurs of color understand the relief available. Guzman, who as director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate met with members of the Start Us Up team to learn about America’s New Business Plan, can help set the tone right away by ensuring entrepreneurs of color have access to the same professionals and resources as established business owners.
The Biden team will take office with no time to waste, as winter represents a crossroads for many entrepreneurs. The progress made in the next two months is not only critical to the survival of many small businesses but is also necessary to avoid long-term setbacks for communities of color. As the administration moves quickly to distribute relief, ensuring nobody is left out of the mix must be atop the recovery agenda.
A forthcoming update of America’s New Business Plan will expand on the existing set of recommendations that address long-standing disparities and inequities. Sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Twitter and be the first to receive the updated roadmap.