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Columbus Urban League Wants More PPP Loans For Black-Owned Businesses

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As businesses continue applying for the second round of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, the Columbus Urban League is working with Black-owned businesses to make sure they get equal access.

Multiple studies, polls and news organizations have highlighted disparities in access to PPP loans, which were rolled out last spring as part of the federal government's first major coronavirus stimulus measures.

The U.S. Census Bureau's Small Business Pulse Survey last spring found just 12% of Black and Hispanic businesses owners had received the aid they’d requested from the Small Business Administration. That’s compared to the national average of 38%.

Experts blame the disparity on Black business owners’ historically limited relationship with banks, meaning they had a harder time getting to the front of the line when pandemic aid became available.

“We were getting calls and calls and calls, and it just breaks your heart when you know that these people, for no fault of their own, their businesses are possibly going to shut down and close because they just weren’t able to get in the cue for those loans," says Columbus Urban League CEO Stephanie Hightower.

As the window remains open for the second round of PPP loan application, Hightower’s organization is working to match business owners with banks that can help them get the money they need to stay open.

“To date, we have already received inquiries from about 40 Black-owned businesses,” Hightower says. “What’s also very encouraging is we have had a couple of financial institutions that have already reached out to us and said, ‘If you have people who you want to get in the cue, please send them our way.’”

Data released by the Small Business Administration last month show Central Ohio businesses were approved for 25,932 loans totaling about $3.24 billion. Loan applications did not ask for the applicant’s race.

As the new Biden administration gets into full swing, Hightower says she hopes to see more of a focus on helping Black-owned businesses.

“My hope is that Presient Biden can continue to increase those dollars for those minority owned businesses," Hightower says. "People don’t realize what a lifelione having the PPP loans really really meant to the economy.”