Black residents account for more than 23% of Louisville’s population. But, only about 2% of the city’s businesses are Black-owned. This could be attributed to the racial biases and discrimination that people of color face in forms of economic, cultural and institutional barriers.
Mayor Greg Fischer promoted city efforts on Thursday, including $14.6 million in Metro Council’s latest budget that aims to tackle inequities and encourage opportunities for businesses run by people of color.
“Black- and minority-owned businesses faced some of the harshest impacts from the pandemic, because, in most cases, many of them were already starting from far behind in the first place, really, because of the differences in entrepreneurship and business presence,” Fischer said. “And, suddenly, businesses’ strategy went from thriving to just trying to survive and get through the year.”
The city awarded the Black-run SKS accounting and consulting firm $200,000 to help businesses grow. Fischer said, in addition, the firm will provide administrative support to those recovering from COVID-19-losses. Kena Samuel Stith is the firm’s CEO.
“Sometimes they’re very comfortable because we look like one another,” Samuels Stith said. “We’re trying to make sure that they have the right accountants, media, marketing and operational functions.”
Wealth equality advocates have said prioritizing direct, financial assistance to Black businesses and communities is critical to meaningful change. But, only about $4 of the $14.6 million in council funding will be directly accessible to POC-owned businesses through loan and financial assistance programs. The majority of funding will go to a new, state-mandated effort to build and maintain wealth within the West End.
Last year, advocates and Black community leaders called on local government officials to pull $50 million of money dedicated to public safety and, instead, invest it into a Black Community Fund to mitigate the lasting effects of systemic racism ━ including money for new and existing small businesses.
Metro Council didn’t make changes to Louisville Metro Police Department funding. The department is allocated more than $198 million, roughly a quarter of Louisville’s annual operating budget.