The federal government still has serious holes in their plan to help Black Businesses
Opt. Ed By Ryan O’Neil Knight
As a man and a business owner, I would like to give my thoughts on the past 9 months since the announcement of the Black Entrepreneurship Program by the federal government.
In September it was announced that the federal government would be allocating 221 million to support Black Entrepreneurs in partnership with the banks … Red Flag Number 1
Prior to that announcement I, along with other members of the community, was invited to engagement sessions with Minister Ng’s office. I was asked to conduct interviews within our network, to present our findings and to provide recommendations. Mind you, I was not well-versed in the world of political theatre. So, I was not expecting that our ideas would be completely ignored, later.
The main suggestion was that, since out of the 221 million there was a loan fund portion, it would be prudent if the federal government partnered with an organization that was experienced in administering microloans. That would ensure that the funds reached the business owners that needed it as efficiently as possible.
Our survey results revealed that many businesses required support in the short term. Moreover, those that could not access CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Account) to obtain the $40,000 – $60,000 interest-free loan would be able to access this new funding.
For context, Alterna Savings have been dispersing microloans for over 20 years and ACBN was able to partner with them to create our own microloan fund that was active within 60 days. Link to the announcement
We identified that 5 million of the 30 million could roll out right away. Unfortunately, we were told there was “no bandwidth to execute this idea” and it was shot down. We were informed that the government’s focus was to reform the banks and have them work together with the Black Business Community in order to create a new funding program. That was fine but I figured we could “walk good and chew gum” at the same time. According to the government bureaucracy, I was wrong.
So, between September 2020 and May 2021 no money flowed to any Black Businesses from this program. Let that sink in…
That brings us to the announcement on May 31, 2021. During that video conference, the community was told that a new section for microloans was added in partnership with Alterna Savings and Vancity. Sound familiar?
In addition to that, BDC contributed 130 million to loan to black entrepreneurs. So, what happened to the Banks 128 million? We waited 9 months to get right back where we started, evidently.
This begs the question, who has really benefited from all the hype? If you look at the photo above that was taken from the CP24 article there is no sight of FACE Coalition, the organization that actually administers the loan program. Neither are there any Black Entrepreneurs front and centre. The only entity that has benefited over the last 9 months appears to have been the Liberal Government.
That should not sit well with us.
I was part of the media scrum after the announcement, and I believe we were the only Black Media company present. It was inexcusable and yet predictable that as such, we were never given the opportunity to ask a question. In fact, every media outlet that was presented with an opportunity to address the Prime Minister asked about the Indigenous crisis and nothing about the event. Not one question about the event.
I say this not because I am insensitive to the tragedy. It was a horrific, inhuman and criminal discovery. Unfortunately, some of our Indigenous brothers and sisters were not even shocked by it as it proved what they have been claiming for years. That should go without saying.
However, was it unreasonable to expect that one question would address the topic of the conference? What does that say about the level of respect the media has for the black community that they did not even acknowledge the topic of the actual call? What does it say about the respect that the Prime Minister has for us that he did not answer a few questions and then redirect to the topic at hand?
It is time for the black community to control our own media. Trusting the current body to truly reflect what our Black Businesses and Organizations need, will never happen.
This is a callout to anyone in the Black Community that is in the media space to band together and create our own platform, control and cover our own events and only allow syndication of our content. I hope I can get this message to all that need to hear it. In any event, the disregard and disrespect that we endure from the mainstream media must end and I want to be part of building something better.
Prime Minister Trudeau, when will the Black Media be able to ask you questions about the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund? I call for a redo of the press conference. Allow the actual recipients to ask questions to get clarity on the program and next steps.