DENVER (CBS4)– Help is on the way to for small businesses in Colorado. The state Legislature is expected to give final approval Friday to a bill that provides $4 million in aid for small businesses disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
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Minority-owned businesses are among those hardest hit. Not only are African Americans and Latinos more likely to be hurt by COVID-19, the Federal Reserve says, they are less likely to get help from banks. The reasons range from racism to relationships.
Sen. James Coleman says, whatever the reason, the result is 60% of white business owners that apply for loans are approved while only 29% of African American business owners are.
“It’s not a question of why this is happening. The point is we need to be figuring out a way to make it so that everyone is getting access and, meanwhile, recognizing it’s a fact, it’s a problem, that these businesses don’t have the supports they need,” said Coleman.
Many minority-owned businesses are in hard-hit industries like food service and hospitality. Coffee at the Point in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood is one of them. For 10 years, owner Ryan Cobbins has worked to build a successful small business. In 10 months, COVID-19 nearly cost him everything.
“We’ve seen roughly a 75-80% drop in sales. There have been days that I have gone home and cried just trying to figure out… I have no idea how I’m going to make it to tomorrow,” said Cobbins.READ MORE: Firefighters Responding To The West Ranch Fire In Jefferson County
The legislature passed a bill during the special session in December aimed at helping businesses like Coffee at the Point. It directed the $4 million specifically to minority-owned businesses.
Sen. Bob Gardner one of the few voices of dissent, “When I saw the provision before, I said that isn’t going to stand, not going to last, but nobody wanted to hear that in special session. Now, we’re back here to fix it.”
After the bill passed, a white business owner sued the state pointing to a Supreme Court ruling that says government benefits can’t be based solely on race.
Rep. Leslie Herod is now sponsoring a new bill that directs the funding instead to “disproportionately impacted” businesses.
“Minority owned businesses need this money now and It’s not a lot but it’s what we can do in Colorado to help them survive,” said Herod.MORE NEWS: Some Evacuations Ordered For Miners Candle Fire Near Dumont
Cobbins says even a little funding from the state will make a big difference, “There’s not a day, or it feels like a minute, that goes by that I’m not trying to figure out how am I going to make these pieces fit together. If I were to look at the books, the books say you’re done. My mind continues to tell me to keep putting one foot in front of another.”