State Seeks to Address Economic Inequality by Increasing Culturally and Linguistically Relevant Help for Small Businesses Owners

Commerce partners with 20 community-based organizations statewide to provide technical assistance and other resources to underserved small businesses affected by COVID-19

September 24, 2020

OLYMPIA, WA –Small business owners now have more places to seek culturally and linguistically relevant help for dealing with COVID-19, thanks to expansion of the Small Business Resiliency Assistance program announced today by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed numerous disparities and inequities that affect the ability of many communities to access everything from health care to worker protections to broadband. Access to culturally and linguistically relevant information is another significant challenge. While numerous aid and grant programs are available to help businesses, non-English speaking and business owners of color are far less likely to receive information about those programs even as they face disproportionately higher rates of closure.

A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) estimates declines in the number of business owners by racial and demographic group since April:

  • African-American businesses were hit the hardest by COVID-19 – declining by 41%.
  • Latinx businesses declined by 32%.
  • Asian businesses down 26%.
  • Immigrant businesses were also devastated, with losses of 36%.
  • At the same time, white-owned businesses declined by 17%.

“We know the pandemic is impacting communities differently throughout the state, and the supports needed to meet this challenge and safely restart our economy look very different as well,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “Ensuring equity in small business resiliency – giving every business owner equal access to the help they need – is crucial to protecting the incredible diversity of businesses that call Washington home.”

Commerce now lists 20 partner organizations statewide providing targeted technical assistance, business coaching and other services to minority-owned small business owners who need help identifying and accessing sources of local, state and federal funding and other resources available to them.

“As a membership-based organization, we cultivate relationships of trust and take a personal approach to our work. We provided personalized application assistance to 55 businesses in a short period of time and by serving as a trusted community partner, we were able to overcome many of the barriers to receiving relief funds and preserved much needed jobs in low-income areas,” said Mariah McKay, founder and executive director of Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance (SIMBA). SIMBA was among the first group of contractors tapped to provide resiliency assistance earlier this summer.

The program is enabled in part by state Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. Commerce contracted with the following organizations to act as trusted messengers, providing technical assistance to Washington small businesses and non-profits:

  • African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest (ACCPNW)
  • Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC)
  • Community Health Worker Coalition for Migrants and Refugees
  • Federal Way Black Collective
  • Filipino Community of Seattle
  • Friends of Little Saigon – Seattle
  • Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA)
  • Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber
  • India Association of Western Washington (IAWW)
  • Inland Northwest Business Alliance Chamber (INBA)
  • Latino Community Fund of Washington
  • Multi-Ethnic Business Association (AHANA-MEBA)
  • Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority
  • Seattle-Washington State Korean Association
  • Sister Sky, Inc.
  • Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance (SIMBA)
  • Tabor 100
  • Tacoma Urban League
  • Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Ventures

A slice of success in Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County

When Dino’s Pizza and Grill in Aberdeen applied for a Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant earlier this summer, they were unfortunately not successful. Enter Sister Sky, Inc., one of the state’s Small Business Resiliency Assistance contractors, a company founded and owned by two sisters who are members of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. Based in Spokane, Sister Sky’s charge is to help small business owners who may face significant extra challenges to accessing state and other assistance, including federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Specifically, their expertise is in helping Native American business owners. Sister Sky followed up with Phillip Blackburn, Dino’s Pizza and Grill’s owner and a member of the Quinault Tribe. They connected Mr. Blackburn with an approved PPP lender to apply for help in the second round of PPP funds. Sister Sky provided a high level of technical assistance and business coaching on applications, documents and other requirements, ultimately helping Dino’s secure the loan and keep the business open.

“Thank you so much for helping us get through the process of getting this loan,” writes Mr. Blackburn. “I am looking at my bank account today and if the loan had not gone through, we would have closed down our business and we do not know if we would open again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!”

Find a complete list of Small Business Resiliency Assistance program organizations, services, communities served and contact information here on Commerce’s website.

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