coronavirus pandemic

Black-Owned Businesses in DC Struggle for Funding During Pandemic

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The pandemic has been tough for nearly all businesses, but Black-owned businesses have been hit especially hard.

The New York Times found during the first phase of PPP, three quarters of loans went to businesses in majority-white areas.

Along a stretch of Good Hope Road in D.C.'s Anacostia neighborhood, small business owners say sales have been slow.

"We were climbing as COVID happened, and we took a big hit because of it," Fresh Food Factory Owner Amanda Stephenson said.

Stephenson's shop offers healthy options in an area with few grocery stores.

But Stephenson didn’t qualify for a PPP loan. She says it was due to technicalities like not making enough money to pay herself a salary and, thus, not having a paycheck to protect.

"Or your operating budget had to be a certain amount, but I just opened in May," Stephenson said. "They find ways to kind of weed people out and sometimes it’s unfair. We need to be properly supported. We need to be properly funded."

Her business isn't the only one in Anacostia seeing slower sales.

Nearby, the Nubian Hueman store sells clothing and home decor.

"COVID has, obviously, been really hard having a brick and mortar store," Nubian Hueman Owner Anika Hobbs said.

Hobbs was able to get a PPP loan and she says it made a huge difference.

"It's definitely, definitely helped keeping our entire staff on, which is super important," Hobbs said.

As businesses try to make ends meet, that’s where accountant Salome Tinker comes in.

"You can certainly see where there’s a decline of loans to Black-owned businesses," Tinker said.

Tinker has been helping Anacostia businesses apply for loans and grants. She says she often steers them towards smaller banks.

"You’re pretty much dead in the water before you’ve had an opportunity to present a case with some of the larger banks," Tinker said.

The Fresh Food Factory and the Nubian Hueman store say they’re both doing more sales online these days.

In the coming months, they’ll keep applying for grants, and try to make the most of whatever funding they can find.

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