Press Release

April 21, 2021
Cardin & Cantwell Lead Introduction of Legislation to Expand & Make Permanent Minority Business Development Agency

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.), U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) have introduced the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021. The bill would make permanent and expand the reach of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which was created by Executive Order in 1969. The bill would also place MBDA regional offices in more communities, increase the agency’s grant making capacity, and create a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development.

Introduction of the bill comes on the heels of the Biden Administration’s FY2022 budget proposal, which would increase funding to MBDA by more than 40 percent and appoint an Assistant Secretary of Commerce to manage the agency.

“MBDA is one of our best tools to address the historic barriers to small business ownership that Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous entrepreneurs face,” Cardin said. “Congress must make MBDA permanent and give the agency the resources necessary to support minority entrepreneurs who face pervasive and historic barriers to business ownership.”

“The Minority Business Development Agency helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses,” Cantwell said. “This legislation would make this agency permanent and ensure that we are doing everything we can to support minority-owned companies during these times of unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Long before the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted communities of color, minority entrepreneurs faced historic and pervasive barriers to accessing the capital, support, and opportunities needed to succeed,” said Leader Schumer. “That is why I am proud to support this legislation to expand and make permanent the Minority Business Development Agency. This bill will further empower the MBDA to give our country’s minority-owned businesses the resources they need to recover from the pandemic and will help build a more equitable and sustainable economy for the future.”  

“Minority-owned businesses are vital to the vibrancy of our communities and the strength of our economy, yet they often face barriers like access to capital or training,” Senator Alex Padilla said. “It’s critical that we support these businesses, especially during a health and economic crisis that has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Expanding and making the Minority Business Development Agency permanent will provide the funding and resources minority entrepreneurs need, and will help us build a more equitable, sustainable economy.”

“Especially during this time of economic disruption that has disproportionately affected minority populations, we must work to provide our minority-owned small business community with the resources they need to grow their enterprises,” said Senator Rosen. “The Minority Business Development Agency has helped countless businesses succeed and this legislation will allow for more to obtain the assistance they need. As a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I will continue to work alongside Chairman Cardin to provide Nevada and our nation’s small businesses with the critical resources they need to not only recover from the pandemic, but to thrive.” 

Senator Booker said, “Our country has a long history of systemic barriers that make it hard for entrepreneurs of color to compete and succeed. Since its inception, the Minority Business Development Agency has helped countless entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing the resources and tools to prosper, and their work has been made all the more urgent by the public health and economic crises that have fallen unevenly on the shoulders of Black and brown communities. Making permanent the MBDA will help the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs succeed both at home and in the global market.”

“It’s critical for Congress to expand and make the Minority Business Development Agency permanent, so that Nevada’s communities of color have access to the resources and support they need to create and sustain successful businesses,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading this legislation, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to help level the playing field for Nevada’s diverse business owners.”

“Empowering minority-owned businesses through resources and investments fuels jobs and keeps our economy moving towards recovery,” said Senator Sinema.

“Investing in the success of minority-owned businesses is crucial to the success of our nation and the growth of a more inclusive and prosperous economy. We’ve seen the positive impact of the Minority Business Development Agency in communities across Maryland and this country – making it permanent just makes sense. This is a vital tool in our efforts to build back better, and the Congress must take this action to provide the MBDA with the resources it needs to support minority business owners and ultimately create a more equitable economy,” said Senator Van Hollen.   

“The COVID-19 pandemic worsened historic barriers to minority-owned businesses,” said Senator Feinstein. “We need to finally make the Minority Business Development Agency permanent and expand it into more communities to overcome those barriers, helping more entrepreneurs achieve the American dream of owning a business.”

“I’m grateful for Chairman Cardin’s leadership to address the disparate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority-owned businesses,” said Senator Lujan. “This bill will authorize the Minority Business Development Agency for the first time and increase the support it provides to businesses owned by Hispanic and Native American entrepreneurs. The legislation requires MBDA to partner with Hispanic-serving institutions and Tribal Colleges to create a workforce pipeline and ensure that the next generation of business leaders is prepared to meet the challenges today and in the future.”

“The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) provides critical resources to assist minority business owners,” said Senator Durbin. “This bill is an important step towards addressing the disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on minority owned businesses.  I’m proud to join Senator Cardin in introducing the Minority Business Resiliency Act to strengthen and expand the MBDA to further support minority entrepreneurs.”

“COVID-19 is not the great equalizer—it lays bare inequities that have long existed in our country,” said Senator Smith. “I believe we must redouble our efforts to address the longstanding history of systemic racism and inequity in our economic system. This bill is an important step in supporting opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs of color.”  

Minority business enterprises (MBEs) have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, from February to April 2020, an estimated 41 percent of Black-owned businesses, 32 percent of Latino-owned businesses, and 26 percent of Asian-owned businesses closed while 17 percent of white-owned businesses closed.

The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on minority-owned businesses reflect long-standing racial disparities in access to capital, mentorship, and technical training. MBEs are more likely to be denied loans than non-MBEs; on average, the annual gross receipts reported by MBEs is only one-third of the annual gross receipts reported by non-MBEs; and MBEs are half as likely as non-MBEs to have employees.

The Minority Business Resiliency Act would address the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on minority businesses and support them on the road ahead by:

  • making MBDA permanent in statute and formally establishing processes for its largest program, the Minority Business Development Center (MBDC) Program;
  • expanding the geographic reach of the MBDA by authorizing the creation of regional MBDA offices and rural business centers;
    • creating a new program to partner with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs) to build a pipeline of entrepreneurial talent;
    • designating a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development to lead the MBDA;
    • increasing MBDA’s grant-making capacity to carry out economic development and research; and
    • increasing MBDA’s fiscal year 2021 budget to fund these initiatives.

Click here to download a section-by-section summary of the bill.

Cardin introduced similar legislation in July 2020. Reps. Al Green (D-Texas), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Kweisi Mfumi (D-Md.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)

The bill is endorsed by the National Urban League, U.S. Black Chambers (USBC), Small Business Majority, Association Enterprise for Opportunity (AEO), National Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE), the Page 30 Coalition, and Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC).

“The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) proudly supports the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021,” said USBC President & CEO Ron Busby. “This significant piece of legislation would provide long-term, intentional support to the sole-agency responsible for assisting the development of minority-owned enterprises, the Minority Business Development Agency at the Department of Commerce. As Black Business owners begin to navigate a post-pandemic economy, we will require deliberate and wide-reaching legislative solutions that will assist with the creation and growth of economic opportunities in our communities. On behalf of the nation’s 2.6 million Black businesses, USBC endorses this essential legislation, as it provides opportune support to the most vulnerable businesses, Black-owned businesses.”

“The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) applauds lawmakers on the introduction of the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021. This bill ensures that Main Street America’s smallest and overlooked businesses, minority-owned businesses, receive support by the way of the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA),” said AEO President & CEO Connie Evans. “As the leading champion for microbusinesses, this legislation provides needed resources to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, expands technical assistance support, and ensures that our nation’s smallest minority-owned firms have the assistance to expand in the coming years, among others. As we work to deliver capital and services to assist underserved entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing and expanding their businesses, we are pleased to endorse the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021.”

National ACE President & CEO Chiling Tong said, “MBDA has helped countless minority owned businesses operate safely during the pandemic, find resources to stay open, and even grow in capacity. Almost 11 million minority-owned businesses rely on MBDA to connect them to needed contracts, capital, and markets. Codifying MBDA in the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021 will ensure that our small and medium sized minority-owned businesses remain resilient and continue to play an integral role in rebuilding Main Street in preparation for a post-Covid economy.”

“The Page 30 Coalition welcomes the introduction of the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021 as it aims to provide critical investment to underserved communities for years to come,” said Jamon Phenix, Coalition Manager, Page 30 Coalition. “For over fifty years, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) at the Department of Commerce has supported minority-owned enterprises throughout our nation. The Page 30 Coalition proudly supports the effort to codify and modernize MBDA. Ensuring minority business owners have the support they need from the US government to grow and scale their businesses, aligns with our mission of serving those entrepreneurs prioritized by the CARES Act.”

LISC Senior Vice President of Policy Matt Josephs said, “LISC thanks Senators Cardin and Cantwell, and their Senate colleagues for leading efforts to meaningfully expand support for minority businesses by introducing the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021. The legislation meets a critical need by codifying the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and ensuring that minority entrepreneurs across the nation are equipped with the resources and tools needed to grow.”