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City teams up with Urban League to invest $1M in predominantly black-owned businesses

Posted at 2:56 PM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 21:12:28-04

CINCINNATI — The city is teaming up with a nonprofit to help predominantly black-owned businesses in the wake of the pandemic.

Under the City of Cincinnati’s proposed 2021 budget, the city will invest $1 million into a new program with the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, which will help infuse money into predominantly black-owned businesses.

About 95% of African American businesses across the country did not receive relief from the CARES Act, according to the Urban League.

The Small Business Administration’s inspector general reported that businesses owned by people of color may not have received loans as intended, NPR reported.
There was no evidence that the SBA told lenders to prioritize businesses in “underserved” markets, the report said.

Only 37% of local African American businesses received relief, according to African American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The Chamber found 102 of its roughly 500 members applied for PPP loans by April 29. Although 37% were approved for funding, 20% were rejected and the remaining 43% had not received an answer.

RELATED: PPP loans tough to get for Cincy's minority-owned firms, survey says

Eddie Koen, CEO of Urban League of Southwest Ohio, said the funding is vital because it could mean the difference between a local business surviving and closing it doors for good.

“When you hear from a local business that has worked their entire life to run a restaurant, and then now they have to close down because of COVID, it’s devastating,” Koen said.

Crystal Kendrick is the president of The Voice of Your Customer, a marketing firm in Walnut Hills. She’s seen firsthand how the pandemic has affected businesses, even hers.

“About half our work stopped just because our contacts weren’t necessarily available,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick said she’s hopeful the program can help revive small businesses.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday announced a $1 million investment with the Urban League; the funding is part of the proposed 2021 budget.

“Many of these small businesses are literally right now in a race against time,” he said.

Funding for predominantly small, black-owned businesses in Cincinnati is critical, Koen said, because 41% of black-owned businesses have ceased operations.

“We are at a state of crisis and emergency,” he said.

Plans aren’t finalized yet, but Koen said businesses that apply will be tiered, based on the type of business and how much assistance is needed.

“We really want to infuse capital and relief, and education, not just a cash register to give grant funds to those businesses and to help them with things around insurance, education about stabilizing your business, taking it to the next level,” he said.

Kendrick said she plans to apply if her business qualifies and that the money could be a lifeline.

“Five, $10,000, that would mean the world to a lot of these businesses just to be able to get started… it seems as if our businesses are valued. It really makes us feel like our businesses are valued.”

The program is part of the city’s proposed budget. The budget goes before Cincinnati City Council next week, and then it will go before two public hearings before it’s officially voted on.