Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Black Business Empowerment Committee (BBE) convened an emergency press conference to address the government’s allocation of emergency and recovery spending for COVID-19 relief, specifically as it pertains to the Black Business Community. COVID-19 emergency and recovery spending will be the Black Business Community’s litmus test for NYC, NYS and Federal candidates seeking political office during the 2020 and 2021 election seasons.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the so-called ’good times’, NY’s Black business community had been battling prohibitive government procurement policies, gentrification, and ineffective legislation that resulted in the demise of thousands of Black businesses. Black people are approximately 22% of NYC’s population, yet we own only 2% of NYC’s businesses and we receive less than 2% of contracts from NYS and NYC agencies. However, current government actions to address the economic ravaging brought on by the COVID-19 crisis present an opportunity for Black business revival and increasing economic empowerment.
The Black business community wants to ensure that COVID-19 emergency and recovery dollars meant to sustain and preserve existing businesses reaches Black business owners and our community. We want elected officials to know that we are watching their actions carefully and we will no longer accept rhetoric in place of economic parity. The Black Community will not be left in the COVID-19 boat of despair while white business owners receive the lion’s share of no-bid contracts, and financial relief is doled out to other communities.
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Given the current procurement mandate across NYS and NYC, as well as Mayor De Blasio’s executive order to shutter brick and mortar businesses – which will disproportionately impact Black-owned businesses (salons, barbershops, daycares, food establishments, etc.) – NYC’s Black business community demands a master no- bid contract, for no less than 22% of all COVID emergency spending. Administration of the funds will be done by the Harlem Business Alliance (HBA), Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI) and Harlem Commonwealth Council (HCC). All three of these not-for-profits have established track records in the Black business community. Their collective administration of funds will be used to:
- Identify needed services and supplies – finding incremental opportunities for existing businesses.
- Match needed services and supplies with qualified service providers and vendors.
- Aggregate, as necessary, service providers and vendors to attain the capacity required for larger contracts/orders.
- Provide appropriate and effective financial relief to Black-owned businesses in the form of loans and grants to ensure existing businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis.
- Provide back-office support for the delivery of all services and supplies.
HBA, HCCI and HCC will jointly manage the master contract and ensure that COVID-19 emergency dollars are spent with Black Owned Businesses, particularly those already in peril before the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, the BBE Committee demands that a $300 million ‘Bail-Out’ fund be set aside for NYC Black businesses to recover in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. Bail-Out recovery funds are to be managed and disbursed by HBA, HCCI and HCC.
The question is – will NY’s elected officials continue to ignore the economic health of the Black community, or will they put measures in place that will ensure the growth and sustainability of Black-owned businesses in NYC during and after the current COVID-19 crisis? The Black business community is watching and we will respond accordingly as the 2020 and 2021 election seasons unfold.
Who are we?
The Black Business Empowerment Committee (BBE) is a collective of Black community organizations, churches and business owners that have come together to put forth a Plan for Black Business Empowerment. The goal is to make Black economic health and Black business empowerment a priority for all elected officials. Primary organizers:
The 400 Foundation
The 400 Foundation, a moral movement for economic equality, was birthed in February 2019 as a historical acknowledgment of the 400th year since the end of Chattel Slavery in North America and a biblical response to the Exodus liberation story after 400 years of oppression. www.the400foundation.org
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Harlem Business Alliance
Since its founding in 1980 the Harlem Business Alliance (HBA) has been a force of advocacy for the development and empowerment of Harlem’s small business community. HBA offers free one-on-one counseling services to aspiring entrepreneurs maneuvering through the start-up phase as well as to established small business owners. www.hbany.org
WEG is an alliance of Harlem based Black entrepreneurs formed in 2018 in an effort to level the playing field for Black business owners in NYC. WEG seeks to buck the trend by advocating for Black-owned businesses and identifying contract opportunities and Black entrepreneurs prepared to accept the opportunity. www.WEGNYC.org