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$267M in federal aid headed to Pa. to help small biz in underserved communities

The Biden administration and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are touting the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal small business assistance headed to the states — including such key 2022 battlegrounds as Arizona and Pennsylvania.

On Monday, officials announced the new round of aid through the reauthorized State Small Business Credit Initiative, a $10 billion program, funded through the American Rescue Plan, that provides access to venture capital and loan guarantees, among other options, to small businesses.

“It’s very important to understand that the American Rescue Plan had dual goals — to ensure the strongest … recovery for the crisis that we were in, and to make sure the recovery was an equitable one for the under-served and hardest-hit communities,” senior White House adviser Gene Sperling said during a Monday press call.

The funding round announced Monday, which totals more than $1.5 billion, is “transformative,” according to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, whose state is in line for $120 million in assistance through the program.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, who also participated in Monday’s call, lauded the $267.8 million in federal assistance headed to the Keystone State, calling it a “critical” tool to “to invest and support new ventures — especially from communities that have faced barriers.”

The aid headed to Pennsylvania will be administered by the state Department of Community & Economic Development, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said in a statement.

“This funding from the Biden administration is a significant investment in Pennsylvania’s future that will be used to empower our small businesses and generate new jobs,” Wolf said in the statement.

Participants on Monday’s call stressed the foundational role that small businesses play across the economy. That’s particularly in communities of color, where they are “critical” to the local economic infrastructure, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.

“We’ve intentionally designed the program to drive investment to underserved entrepreneurs,” Adeyemo said. “It’s always difficult to access capital, and [this program] is designed to address it; to help more entrepreneurs get the funding they need.”

Americans started 5.4 million new businesses last year, that’s more than 20 percent higher than any prior year, and more than two-thirds higher than the yearly average of 3.2 million new businesses in the five years before the start of the pandemic, Wild’s office said in a email, citing a White House report.

“We came up with this focus to concentrate on these persistent poverty communities in our country,” U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., who was on Monday’s call, said. “These programs are needed. We want to get it done equitably and efficiently.”

Adeyemo, who had previously visited the Lehigh Valley, pointed to two businesses in the region he said would benefit from the assistance: A Latino-owned barbershop that kept its employees through the pandemic, and a Black-owned childcare center that was expanding thanks to American Rescue Plan funding

“I think there are businesses throughout Pennsylvania and throughout the country that can use SSBCI resources to continue to grow and grow our economy going forward,” he said.

Wild, who recently met with Black business leaders in her Allentown-based district to discuss the challenges and successes they faced during the pandemic, called the money headed to Pennsylvania “monumental.”

“It’s a phenomenal number, which will really open up access to capital and investment to those who have faced barriers, empowering anyone with dreams and plans to make them a reality.”

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