Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has announced that the city is opening a $100 million fund for Latino and Black-owned businesses. The city has partnered with a number of businesses and public figures like Shaquille O'Neal to raise funds to support businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far, Baraka has raised $2 million of the $100 million fund.
“We have an ocean of prosperity, but some of us are drowning in poverty,” Baraka said.
During the pandemic, a number of Latino and Black-owned businesses have been greatly affected by the pandemic. A study from the University of California, Santa Cruz found that 41% of Black-owned businesses in the country shut down between February and April. Moreover, the same study found that 32% of Latino-owned businesses shut down during the same time period. In comparison, only 17% of white-owned businesses shut down in early 2020.
One of the many Black-owned businesses impacted by the virus was T. Strong's Studio Sole in Newark, New Jersey.
“There aren’t as many customers as there once was,” Strong told CBS2.
“Banks don’t want to loan us. Not sure if it’s Newark in general or the color of our skin.”
The pandemic has also impacted Black and Latino families differently than their white counterparts. In May, the Pew Research Center reported that 61% of Hispanic Americans and 44% of Black Americans experienced a wage or job loss due to the pandemic. Also, they also found that 73% of Hispanic Americans and 70% of Black Americans did not have three-months worth of emergency funds to survive the pandemic if needed.
While this fund may not solve all American income inequality issues, Mayor Baraka believes it may be a step in the right direction.
“We can no longer just paint slogans, or do ceremonial or symbolic events or even defund police. We need major steps to have equity and repair,” Baraka said.
His constituents in Newark are starting to believe in Baraka's fund as well.
“It’s an amazing idea. I think it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t think that we will be able to thrive through this pandemic without it,” Strong said.
Applications for the fund will open in approximately 60 days.
Photo: Getty Images