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Black-owned and small businesses struggling because of pandemic

Getting government help has been difficult
Posted at 12:31 AM, Aug 25, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — After being closed for part of the pandemic and struggling to bring customers back, Stacey and Rick's Soul Food Restaurant on the Indianapolis east side may not make it to 2021. And in July, owner, Rick Fowler told me he's been denied for multiple loans and grants.

"They promised that once we closed down that we were getting the forgiven loans, which I never received. I actually even talked to someone at Governor Holcomb's office and they said the money is in the pipeline. Where is the end of the pipeline?," Fowler said.

Larry Williams Jr. is president of the Indy Black Chamber and says Stacey and Rick's is not the only restaurant struggling after trying to get financial help.

"When they have applied for the EDIL loan if there credit is not above 640 they're getting denied and we have over 150 people who have applied for the EDIL loan and their credit didn't match up so they got denied," Williams said.

Williams says the Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration is one of several programs many small and Black-owned businesses are missing out on. He says the Paycheck Protection Program, meant to help businesses pay their employees during the pandemic, requires businesses to provide their workers with a W-2 form. That means businesses that rely on contractors, or pay workers in cash are ineligible.

"Another reason they are getting denied for the PPP loan is they were not profitable. And usually the first five years of your company, you're not profitable, you're just kind of staying afloat," Williams said.

Fowler thought some of the loans he applied for would be automatically forgiven. Williams says that is true, but on paper it has to look as if the business can pay the loan back. Those without profits or employees without W-2 forms can't show that. Williams says that's why the Black Chamber is asking city leaders to issue money to them, so the chamber can cater to the unique needs of Black-owned businesses.

"We're here. We're here to help the Black community because as these Black businesses grow they hire Black people, and as Black people get good jobs and no longer rent, they start buying homes. And once they buy homes they invest into the community and as the Black community grows Indianapolis grows as a whole. That's what were preaching to everyone and that's why were asking for support," Williams said.

When asked about the way funding works for the Indy Black Chamber and Indy Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Joe Hogsett's office told WRTV the city does not fund the operation of the Indy Chamber --- but it does contract the chamber for several COVID-19 relief programs.

The Indy Chamber says 28% of it's Rapid Response Loans went to Black-owned businesses. 38% of the PPP loans it helped administer went to Black-owned businesses. 15% of Ready to Restart grants have gone to Black-owned businesses.

The restart grants help businesses pay for protective equipment and other safety measures.

The Indy Black Chamber was one of the Indy Chamber's outreach partners for the program.