A new plan to boost the number of minority-owned businesses by enhancing small business development programs at minority-serving institutions is before the U.S. Congress.
Under the Minority Entrepreneurship Bill, Congress would allocate $24 million to establish a two-year, pilot competitive grant program. Colleges and universities that serve Black, Hispanic and American Indian communities would have access to $1 million grants to develop curriculum and support students in a range of disciplines.
Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the bill would enable institutions to set up Small Business Development Centers, which would provide counseling and capacity building and market niche development programs.
“One of the aims of this program is to give young people who are in school, who have expertise in certain areas, the chance to be able to come out of school and start their own business. In other words, to not have to come out of school and work for someone else for 30 years,” Cummings said during a conference call with reporters last week.
Unemployment rates among Blacks reached a high of 9 percent in June — double that of the general population, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Bill sponsors say they see entrepreneurship as a key to reversing the socioeconomic plight many minorities find themselves in.
“The prevalence of Black-owned businesses has been on the upswing. And minority-owned businesses provide real opportunity for individuals, families and communities. By supporting their growth, we can begin to reverse the increasing ‘wealth gap’ for good,” Cummings said.
Added bill co-sponsor Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., “Entrepreneurship is the key to the American Dream, and this legislation gives communities that have faced barriers the tools they need to pursue that dream — to develop and start successful small businesses.”
— Diverse reports
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