Rep. Pressley, Senator Harris Introduce Groundbreaking Bill to Support Small Neighborhood Businesses During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced the Saving Our Street (SOS) Act, legislation that provides federal support to microbusinesses throughout America during the COVID-19 crisis. The SOS Act will lift up local economies and allow for small neighborhood businesses to stay open during this crisis.  

“Our smallest neighborhood businesses are the backbones of our communities, but so far too many have been left out and left behind by federal relief efforts,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Without deliberate action, this will widen the racial and gender wealth gap. As we work to mitigate the hurt caused by COVID-19, we must be intentional in directing aid to these small businesses that employ our neighbors, provide critical goods and services, and generate trillions of dollars in economic activity annually. I’m grateful to Senator Harris for her partnership on this breakthrough legislation. Our microbusiness’s ability to keep the lights on directly impacts issues like community wide food security and the basic needs of families trying to pull through this crisis.”

“Neighborhood businesses across the country are hurting and Congress has failed to get help to those that need it most. The Saving Our Street Act helps small, local businesses keep their lights on and their workers on the job. I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Pressley on this important bill,” said Senator Harris.

The SOS Act:

  • Establishes a Microbusiness Assistance Fund of $124.5 billion to provide up to $250,000 directly to small “micro” businesses
    • Targeted to “micro” businesses with fewer than 10 employees
    • Businesses with at least half of their employees from the community and within a low-income community may have up to 20 employees
  • Will help neighborhood businesses put people back to work
    • Can be used for essentials like payroll, rent, utilities, insurance, and personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Employers must maintain prior levels of health benefits for employees
    • Essential businesses may use funding to provide hazard pay for employees
  • Reserved for those who truly need help 
    • Businesses earning more than $1 million in revenue are prohibited from receiving grants
    • Nonprofits with less than $500,000 in gross receipts and fewer than 10 employees
    • Excludes publicly traded and hedge fund-owned businesses
    • Recipient businesses must provide financial statements to demonstrate true need
    • Funds cannot be used to pay salaries over $100,000
  • 75% of the funding goes to historically underrepresented businesses, including minority-owned businesses
    • $300 million to nonprofit and community organizations assisting small business owners
    • $50 million for minority business centers to provide technical assistance and online training
    • $50 million for centers supporting small and women owned businesses 
  • Requires a report detailing the ethnicity, race, industry, geographical demographics, and sex of applicants for grants

According to polling released today by Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative, 55% of voters support the creation of a Microbusiness Assistance Fund.

The SOS Act is endorsed by Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority, The Daniel Initiative, Americans for Financial Reform, The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), The National Urban League, National Action Network (NAN), California Reinvestment Coalition, Center for Responsible Lending, National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), National Fair Housing Alliance, The Black Upstart, Amplify Latinx, Asheville Grown, Woodstock Institute, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, Opportunity Fund, Colorado Lending Source, National Council of Jewish Women, Common Wealth Kitchen, PFLAG, and AILA New England, Lawyers for Civil Rights, Project Citizenship, Oxfam America, Compass Working Capital, U.S. Haitian Chamber of Commerce, Asian Business Association San Diego, JPNDC ED, The Latino Equity Advocacy & Policy Institute, LeadersUp, Mission Asset Fund, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Black Chamber, and CalAsian Chamber of Commerce.

“Our small Mom and Pop shops, from the Hair Salon to the corner clothing store have been putting food on the table for families in struggling communities for years. After decades of being shut out of access to fair credit, now they are shuttered by pandemic to keep us safe, in communities with some of the highest death rates from COVID-19. Main Street in low-income communities have earned the right to survive and the economy needs them to do just that. First come first serve loan programs don't serve the hardest hit but this bill will change that. We need Congress to work quickly on this vital effort to save Main Street,” said Maya Wiley, Co-Founder of Flatbush Thrives and Former MWBE Director for the City of New York.

"Minority-owned businesses were already in a precarious position before COVID-19 hit our shores," said Segun Idowu, Executive Director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts. "The Save Our Streets Act provides a timely and much-needed lifeline for a business community that employs millions of Americans and contributes trillions of dollars to the national economy. I am grateful for the leadership of Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Ayanna Pressley in filing legislation that will protect minority-owned businesses and stabilize our communities."

“Our network of 100+ restaurants and other food businesses have been decimated by the COVID closures. These businesses, primarily owned by women, immigrants and people of color, were already severely undercapitalized and running on very slim margins before the pandemic.  They can't afford to take on debt, and programs like PPP are not a solution for businesses that have no idea IF they will ever be able to re-open, let alone when.  They need grants, not loans.  Without a bailout, these businesses, that are the heartbeat of every main street district in every community across the country, will close forever, and the fabric of our cities will be lost,” said Jen Faigel, Executive Director of CommonWealth Kitchen.

“As generations of entrepreneurial wealth in Black and Latinx communities stand at risk of complete loss, Amplify Latinx is in full support of grant relief that can help sustain local, small businesses through the crisis and position them for success in the economic recovery,” said Rosario Ubiera-Miyana, Executive Director of Amplify Latinx.

It is well documented that public policy has contributed to our dramatic racial wealth gap and rendered black and brown businesses under-capitalized with little resources to withstand the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kudos to Senator Harris and Representative Pressley for drafting a bill, which by design and implementation, reverses that trend by providing direct federal grants to targeted micro business and ensuring a federal response of greater economic inclusion,” said Professor Darrick Hamilton, Economist and Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.

“Our clients and program graduates who started small businesses - most of whom are women of color - are struggling to access the funds they need to stay afloat. Targeted support for businesses like theirs will enable them to maintain what they have worked so hard to build and ensure that they can continue to play a vital role in their communities,” said James Stuart, Chief Development & Communications Officer, Compass Working Capital.

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