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How far will Colorado law go for minority-owned businesses?

This legislation is meant to help small businesses struggling during the pandemic in Colorado, though it can't address all of the problems business owners face.

DENVER — Senate Bill 20B-001 is geared toward helping Colorado's small businesses that are struggling during the pandemic.

Part of its focus is in the bill's name. The COVID-19 Relief Small And Minority Businesses Arts Organizations legislation was among the bills passed during a special legislative session last week. On Dec. 7, Polis signed the bill into law, creating funding for small and minority-owned businesses. 

In an e-mail, Rosy McDonough, the director of Minority Business Office for the state, said there are approximately 130,000 to 150,000 minority-owned businesses in Colorado. That represents 21% of all Colorado firms. 

Overall, the bill allocates a couple of pools of money for relief:

  • $37 million to small businesses
  • $7.5 million to arts and cultural organizations
  • $4 million to minority-owned businesses

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Depending on eligibility, business owners can tap into more than one pool of funding. 

In a statement, McDonough, acknowledged this one bill isn't addressing all the problems:

"The $4M allocation offers immediate aid but cannot serve the total need. That is why federal support is so vital. Colorado's constitution does not permit deficit spending so these funds, while limited, represent the limited resources available to deploy. Given the extent of economic distress across the state, minority businesses, small businesses and local governments alike continue to implore Congress to act and allocate federal relief funds prior to their holiday recess."

The grants specifically from the money allocated for minority-owned businesses could be anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000. Some businesses could get more if they are eligible to get grants from the other pools of money. 

Veronica Ferro is the co-owner of Segrity, which works in the electricity and power plants sphere. She said that while she is grateful elected officials are listening to concerns from businesses, the amount allocated for minority-owned businesses was disappointing. 

"I can appreciate the fact that we at least get some. From what I understand, it will be very small grants each of us can get," said Ferro. "[It will] probably only scratch the surface of what we need to keep our businesses going and growing."

Ferro owns 51% of the company of seven, and said they have been slashing at their budget to save jobs. 

"Because I'm Argentinian and the daughter of immigrants, I know the value of savings," she said. 

In an e-mail, the state said, "These Funds will provide relief to minority-owned businesses in immediate need of support, help establish longer-term funding for minority-owned businesses, and ensure they have access to technical support necessary to access these and other financial resources." 

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade said the hope is these dedicated funds will begin to remove some barriers, writing: 

"Historically, access to capital has been a long-standing inequity faced by minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs and these dedicated funds begin to remove that barrier. The Brookings Institute recently found that large banks approve around 60 percent of loans sought by White small-business owners, 50 percent of those sought by Hispanic or Latinx small-business owners, and just 29 percent of those sought by Black small business owners. Research has also found that Black small-business owners are significantly more likely to be asked by banks to provide more information about their personal financials when applying for small-business loans. These limitations and barriers to  access to capital for minority business-owners have resulted in weaker banking relationships, thereby putting these owners at a disadvantage for accessing federal CARES Act resources such as PPP."

Ferro added that language barriers are a significant factor, too. 

"I can see how language is a big barrier for some of the people who have excellent ideas for businesses," she said. 

Ferro also said there are resources for minority-owned businesses that not everyone knows about. 

Here are a few:

choosecolorado.com/COVID19 

mbocolorado.com.

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