Minority small business owners say they're left out of government assistance

With most businesses forced to close or reduce to smaller staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses say they're being left out of the CARES Act passed by federal lawmakers.

The CARES Act was meant to help small businesses keep their employees on the payroll through the shutdown through the Payroll Protection Program. Businesses had to apply for a grant from the government to keep the employees paid. It's meant for people like Crystal Dozier.

She owns Xstreme Xcursions, a travel agency, in the Detroit area. Needless to say, her job has been greatly impacted, so she went to apply just days after it was passed and signed into law.

"I've reached out to SBA (Small Business Association), the people there from SBA said that they will be getting back to us but (I) haven't received any correspondence, or anything else," Dozier said.

She wasn't the only one who hasn't gotten the help they desperately need. Felicia Harris from EverythingHR applied too.

"I didn't end up getting, I guess, into the queue to actually receive it. So I did not receive funds, the first time around," Harris said.

Both women are waiting. The first round of money is gone but a second round is being allocated. 

Ned Staebler, the Vice President for Economic Development at Wayne State University, says lower profit margins and often a lack of lending history with a bank place minority and female entrepreneurs at the back of the line 

"You are pretty much required to have a pre-existing banking relationship to get to the front of the line," Staebler said. "So it wasn't necessarily a weakness in the program itself, but rather just it's highlighting in yet another way the inequities we have in our system. I'm not going to say it's not racial. The inequities in our system indeed have long-standing racial underpinnings."  

While the two women may have missed the first round, Staebler said the second round of funding may be of benefit.

"Well, in this round, they did segment off, I think, about $60 billion, which they're going to try and reserve for banks that are more primarily serving underserved communities," he said.

Harris said that's an encouraging sign and many business owners say they hope they will get a piece of the pie during this second round so the doors of their business don't close for good.

"But I think this time around, we're a little bit more encouraged knowing that there was funding set aside," she said.