The coronavirus pandemic is impacting every aspect of our society and exposing deep, systemic inequities that are killing Black people. As the news changes minute-to-minute, BET and Color Of Change are teaming up to make sure Black people have the clear and focused information we need to get help, take action and support the hardest hit in our communities.
The economy is in a downward spiral and the government and corporations have set Black people up to face the worst of the worldwide recession. As stimulus checks hit some people’s bank accounts, there’s one very important group that’s been left out of the relief efforts: Black-owned businesses.
For Color Of Change members like Burnell Cotlon, whose New Orleans based grocery store, Burnell's Market is still serving the majority of his neighborhood through the pandemic, business now means operating on a shoestring budget while his customers free-fall into financial trouble. Cotlon provides the Lower Ninth Ward with the only fresh grocery in the area and is starting to feel the same desperation that his customers are facing. His is a local, small businesses that serves as the bedrock of his community and like so many others, if we don’t work to save them now, we’ll be hurting for generations to come.
Our society has failed to protect Black people so it’s no surprise that the current government response to the coronavirus is doing the same. So far, the federal government’s relief program for businesses has been plagued with errors, delays, and requirements designed to leave us out. It took less than two weeks for the money allocated for small businesses in the stimulus bill to dry up and most of those transactions relied on businesses’ existing relationships with big banks. It’s up to us to demand that relief centers do the job of protecting Black businesses as Congress looks to pass the next stimulus package.
This week in #TheBlackResponse to COVID-19, we’re giving you five action steps you can take to support entrepreneurs, jobs and economic progress in Black communities.
- Continue to support Black-owned businesses during the pandemic:Many are still selling their products online at sites like WeBuyBlack.comwhile hundreds of others have asked for support from their communities in order to stay afloat. Even if you can’t support financially, you can reach out to your favorite local Black-owned businesses to see if there are other ways you can lend a hand.
- Research and let folks know about Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s new bill: The Paycheck Guarantee Act is meant to cover up to 100 percent of payroll costs for small businesses for the next three months and provide immediate grants for fixed costs like rent and utilities. Once it’s passed, you can support our efforts to ensure Black-owned businesses have the tools and information needed to apply for the relief that is so greatly needed.
- Share the story of your Black-owned business: Telling our stories is powerful. If you have a Black-owned business that’s working hard through the pandemic, use your company's website and social media platforms to share your story and encourage others to support your survival and recovery.
- Demand free tax filing for small businesses: Paying thousands of dollars to file taxes could mean the end of Black businesses during this pandemic recession, so we’re calling on Intuit/TurboTax to make their tax filing services completely free to small businesses. We can’t let this billion-dollar financial software company dodge its responsibility by forcing Black businesses to use services like GoFundMe just to file their taxes when they have the power and resources to do more to help.
- Apply for your personal stimulus check today: When Black people have money to spend on Black-owned businesses, our communities thrive. Millions of Americans have already received their $1,200 stimulus check, but if you haven’t filed taxes in the last two years, you may need to send the IRS your address or bank info in order to receive your check.
We’re in a critical moment where we need to ensure that Black businesses get the same money and support that everyone else is getting. We can’t allow the government to leave us out again. We’ve worked hard to build our Black businesses, now it’s up to us to protect them.
Rashad Robinson is President of Color Of Change, a leading racial justice organization with more than 1.7 million members that design winning strategies to build power for Black communities. Rashad appears regularly in major news media and as a keynote speaker nationally. You can find him on Twitter @RashadRobinson.