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The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a great start. Small-business owners of color need more – Roll Call

The possibility of Congress actually delivering on a bipartisan infrastructure package is not only welcome news to those who still believe thoughtful, collaborative leadership is possible in Washington but also represents an essential investment in communities that desperately need it.

Main Street, in particular, is set to benefit from these investments. However, as we continue to build back from a generational public health and economic crisis and grapple with the consequences of a much-needed reckoning on racial equity, minority-owned small businesses need this infrastructure investment to be one piece of a larger effort. We need to take lessons from the programs that kept Main Street afloat during the height of the pandemic, ensure the resources get to the people hit hardest and engage leaders across sectors to help us deliver the kind of booming and inclusive economy Main Street America deserves. 

When COVID-19 hit, the economic impact on small business was swift and devastating. Black, Hispanic, and Asian American and Pacific Islander small-business owners were hit particularly hard, experiencing higher rates of business closures and deeper revenue losses. But more than a year later, and two major relief packages, we’re starting to see signs of a budding recovery. To gain insight into how diverse small businesses were experiencing this recovery, our organizations came together this spring, in partnership with Reimagine Main Street, to field a survey of over 1,300 small-business owners.

The results showed promising but concerning signs. Thankfully, 77 percent expressed optimism about the future of their businesses, with Hispanic small-business owners the most optimistic at 87 percent. This sense of promise is largely fueled by the availability of vaccines. Yet, 63 percent said they didn’t expect revenue to reach pre-pandemic levels for at least six months, with an even higher share of AAPI and Black business owners expecting a long recovery. 

These insights provide a guide for where further effort can make an immediate impact. As vaccination rates plateau and the Delta variant spreads rapidly, we have to do more to engage communities with lagging vaccination numbers to prevent a backslide. And although the programs included in the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan helped stop the bleeding, targeted investment is needed to sustain our economic recovery.