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U.S. Chamber of Commerce warns of racial inequality for small businesses

Attitudes and beliefs about racial inequality are changing quickly as protests and media attention have helped highlight the gaps in opportunity between white- and minority-owned businesses in the United States.

Driving the news: A new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife provided early to Axios shows a 17-point increase in the number of small business owners who say minority-owned small businesses face more challenges than non-minority-owned ones.


By the numbers: In July, 69% of respondents said minority-owned companies faced a tougher road, compared to 52% in January.

  • The change was most notable among white-owned small businesses, with 67% now saying they agree, and 24% saying they disagree.
  • In the first quarter, 47% of white-owned businesses said they agreed and 40% disagreed. 

To wit, two-thirds (66%) of all small businesses acknowledge that minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

What they're saying: "The pandemic could exacerbate and elongate the economic struggles already facing minority-owned businesses and families," Suzanne P. Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber, said in a statement.

Yes, but: Tiffiany Howard, a UNLV political science professor and recent international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Axios that while "there has been a recognition and acknowledgement of racism because they fundamentally know it has existed, and that they have benefited from racist power structures," attitude changes must lead to tangible actions.

  • "Until substantive action is taken to address the disenfranchisement, and efforts are made to invest in Black businesses, then while we may witness public acknowledgement, nothing will actually change."

Where it stands: The Chamber's survey also asked small business owners about current conditions.

  • They found minority-owned business owners are more likely than their white counterparts to report difficulty obtaining loans, express fears about permanently closing, and predict declining revenues in the coming year.
  • The poll finds that 66% of minority-owned small businesses are concerned about having to permanently close their doors compared to 57% for white-owned small businesses.
  • However, the gap has narrowed from May, when 78% for minority-owned companies reported concern compared to 52% of white-owned firms.

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