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“When the Nation Gets a Cold, Black Business Gets Pneumonia”

An Update from Equitas Bank
April 13, 2020
When Things Get Tough, Trust the Group
April 24, 2020

In countries around the word we see the impact of the coronavirus affecting the vulnerable and the marginalized most deeply.  That is as true in the US as it is in India and Paraguay.

Erica King, President, CNIMFG
Erica King, President, CNIMFG

I interviewed Erica King, President of the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives Microfinance Group (CNIMFG), about how the citywide quarantine has affected the business that borrow from her organization.  African Americans own 82% of the businesses that receive loans from CNIMFG, and 70% of CNIMFG’s borrowers have low or moderate incomes. (See my previous post on CNIMFG’s program for returning citizens, Why I Went to Prison.)

“Many of our businesses are overwhelmed, trying to deal with this crisis,” Erica said.  “They have very thin cash flow margins to begin with.    We are trying to provide them with structured information on where they can get help.”

This includes looking for grant funds and forgivable loans.  “More debt will not help in this situation.  We have been advocating for more innovation from city, county and state officials.”

A Food Hall in the Pullman Neighborhood of Chicago with businesses supported by CNIMFG

Erica runs me through a few of the challenges faced by some of her clients.  “People aren’t traveling, so our transport companies are struggling.  People aren’t driving, so the tire repair shop has no customers.  The restaurants can only do takeout. No one can go to the Escape Room.”

Erica quotes from a presentation she attended by the Illinois Black Caucus.  “’When the nation gets a cold, black business gets pneumonia.’ It will take quite a bit of time for our businesses to recover.  They will need technical assistance and business guidance.  And we need cities and states to provide them with more opportunities.”

You can see my full 15-minute interview with Erica below.

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