Black Businesses Seek OPM in times of PPP
By Dianne Anderson
More money coming in the second phase of the Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP, begs the bigger question of how can Black and Brown people get some of the OPM – Other People’s Money.
Robert “Bobby Mac” McDonald, president and executive director of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County for over 30 years, says the money missing from community access is not an anomaly.
He’s has seen it many times before.
With the first round of PPP, big business had their hand in the pot of the $349 billion that was supposed to also support small businesses in the form of forgivable loans to help keep Americans employed. However, those that could have gotten the most bang for the buck in the Black and Brown community have been left behind.
McDonald doesn’t personally know any African American businesses locally that benefited from the CARES Act loan funding. His organization operates under a 501c6 with a 501c3 education fund. He also applied, but was denied.
“I had an opportunity to get it the right way, and I went through the process,” he said. “The unfortunate news is that we gotta’ deal with it.”
People of color, particularly Black people are taking the worst health impact of all groups from the pandemic, and now face brutal unemployment.
A recent USC survey finds that people of color, especially African Americans, are more likely to have lost their jobs. Nationally, 21% of African Americans and 18% of Latinos said they had lost their jobs, compared to 15% of whites.
While little or no funding coming down to the Black community to support jobs at a time of soaring unemployment is unacceptable, McDonald said it was expected.
“I do have a Latino group that’s a member of the Black Chamber that did well, and got some money from one of the banks because they do staffing. They got a contract with Los Angeles to do staffing. They’re a long time member and one of my past awardees,” he said.
For those that move quickly, there might be some dollars left of the second round of PPP, which started accepting applications on April 27.
Most applications in the first round of PPP funding were exhausted within two weeks. Currently, there is a class-action lawsuit against top banks because they only funded large no-risk SBA backed loans and pulled $10 billion in fees. This recent PPP funding may face more scrutiny as the DOJ has reportedly launched a probe into possible fraudulent activity for the 1.6 million businesses that were funded under the first round of funding.
McDonald said it’s hard to gauge to what extent Black business in Orange County is taking an economic hit from Covid-19. Many Black businesses are either home-based businesses, while others work at executive levels, representing a wide range.
“Most of the Black businesses have always been the fifth bedroom, unless they’re in real estate. A lot of our people here are working for corporations. They’re in upper management,” he said.
But he believes that Black businesses will continue to adapt to how they conduct business, especially on the cusp of opening their doors again. If it hasn’t hit already, he said businesses will have to figure out a different way to go to market if they are to survive.
“There’s got to be a metamorphosis change like 2008. Remember how they were cutting back on the cutbacks? In 2001 with 9/11, it took almost a year for people to get back in the groove,” he said.
McDonald, a Vietnam veteran, reflects on the not so distant past to approximate how people react to crises. He remembers hosting his Buffalo Soldier Anaheim reunion and tribute in early August 2002 when people were just starting to get back to feeling comfortable again in open spaces.
Some have asked if he will host his annual banquet this year in the fall. He’s still planning for it. But, he adds that one of his barometers for when businesses re-open is watching the crowds at Disneyland.
“There will be some kind of vaccine, some safety in place, and people will feel comfortable. That will be a focal point for people to come back to the hotels and do the different things. I’ve watched it happen a couple of times,” he said.
His chamber is over 30 years old, runs mostly on a shoestring, but he manages to make things happen. As for money and access, he feels it’s good if people can get it, but he subscribes to an old school philosophy of being ready and prepared, with or without governmental backing.
“When you look at the history of our people and business, it’s always about moving forward and taking the lead,” he said.
For more information on the OC Black Chamber, see www.ocblackchamber.com
For more information on Covid-19 resources and the new PPP, see the SBA Orange County/Inland Empire resources at www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options