The 2020 presidential race between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden has yet to be decided, but local Black, Latinx and LGBTQ business leaders are already evaluating what either candidate’s administration could mean for their respective communities.
Steven Scott Bradley, the chairman of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, says that regardless of who wins the presidential election, he feels a responsibility to help put pressure on political leaders so that the Black community receives resources to thrive.
When considering the possibility of a Biden presidency, Bradley hopes that Biden’s reliance on the Black vote can translate into a support for Black businesses if he’s elected president.
“I’m hoping and thinking the best, that if Biden is successful because of his commitment and the Black vote made a difference, that he would feel a kind of allegiance to economics and entrepreneurship in the Black community,” he said. “He’s always been bullish and sensitive to Black causes.”
Bradley believes that the success of Black businesses is a key component of creating wealth in the Black community. Black business owners frequent face barriers such as lack of access to capital and resources. Social unrest following the killings of Black men like Walter Wallace Jr. by police this year has had devastating effects on many local Black businesses and the communities they serve, too, he said.
“Our members are mostly residents of the city and we pay business taxes,” he said. “We need more entrepreneurs in our community and wealth creation in our community. That would resolve high poverty rates in our community.”
Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Rodríguez believes the local Latinx business community will be in a difficult position “no matter how this pans out.”
According to Pew’s research, immigrants account for 15% of the local population. Of that percentage, 11% of immigrants own their own businesses.
“In my opinion, it would not be different from President [Barack] Obama’s administration where it was hard to gain concessions for immigrants,” she said. “That is where state and local resources become increasingly difficult. We’ve seen from recent Pew reports that immigrant communities are incredibly entrepreneurial compared to other demographics.”
Rodriguez believes that if the Trump administration has a second term, resources for businesses owned by immigrants would be as difficult to access as they are now. She expects that with a Biden administration there would be a greater effort to make those businesses viable for support. However, she is unsure how quickly a Biden administration would allow local businesses like restaurants to access federal aid that has helped many businesses survive the pandemic.
“I’m not sure that with the structure that comes with a Biden presidency that we would get that package fast,” she said. “That leaves us with the state and city as the more immediate opportunities for relief. The city doesn’t seem to be in a position to do much given the constraints with its budget and revenue. The state is also projecting a significant deficit.”
Zach Wilcha, executive director of the Independence Business Alliance, Greater Philadelphia’s LGTBQ Chamber of Commerce, said that the Trump administration has been aggressive in limiting the rights of the LGBTQ community, with specific targeting of people who identify as transgender.
When considering the local LGBTQ business community, Wilcha hopes for a presidential administration who can better handle COVID-19 than the Trump administration has done. According to Wilcha, a large contingent of the local LGBTQ community works in hospitality, an industry that has been shattered by the pandemic.
“In terms of the LGBTQ business community, they like any other community is suffering right now because of a virus that has gotten out of control in society,” he said. “We have a disproportionate amount of folks in the hospitality industry and have been adversely affected by business closures.”Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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