WASHINGTON, D.C. – As businesses around the country continue to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, urging them to ensure small businesses with 10 or fewer employees have full access to COVID-19 small business assistance programs.


“Our smallest businesses, especially women-owned and minority businesses, have long struggled getting access to capital,” the senators wrote. “The coronavirus pandemic has created new hurdles for them. We urge you to ensure that small businesses with 10 or fewer employees and self-employed individuals get the help they need from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and other COVID-19-related assistance.”


There are more than 26 million small businesses with fewer than 10 employees across the country, including over 511,000 in Washington state that represent 94.5% of businesses in the state. Women- and minority-owned small businesses are particularly likely to be among those with fewer than 10 employees. In Washington, 97.9% of women-owned businesses and 98.5% of Black-owned businesses have fewer than 10 employees.


“Smaller businesses represent 96 percent of small businesses across the country and are disproportionately women- and minority-owned… The CARES Act was meant to prioritize underserved concerns including many of these women and minority-owned businesses. Soon after the PPP went into effect, however, it was reported that many smaller and underserved businesses struggled to access these loans,” the senators continued.


In the letter, the senators also point out that many minority communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and unemployment rates have increased significantly for Black, Asian, and other minority communities. Still, many businesses in these areas have been unable to get capital from federal COVID-19 relief programs.


“Ensuring that COVID-related small business assistance reaches businesses with 10 or fewer employees will enable more businesses to remain open and more employees to return to work, especially in underserved communities,” the senators concluded.


Here’s what business and policy leaders have to say:


“The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic has amplified the economic and racial injustices that persist within our nation. Despite the unprecedented bipartisan response from the federal government to safeguard Mainstreet America, it is clear that the most vulnerable firms— Micro, Women, and Minority-owned businesses remain disproportionately impacted by the economic recession sparked by the pandemic. To avert the further distress of these businesses, regulators must enable an equity-based deployment channel that ensures sole-proprietorships and firms with 10 or fewer employees will receive the necessary support from all federal COVID-19 small business relief programs,” said Connie Evans, President & CEO of Association for Enterprise Opportunity.


“During this crisis we have heard about the difficulty of obtaining capital through the CARES Act from our members and partners. I think the first step to correcting this is to acknowledge that this disparity exists. And the next step is to find a sustainable solution that transcends this pandemic era so that our women and minority-owned businesses can continue to compete and flourish,” said Candace Waterman, President & CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy.


The full text of the letter can be found HERE.