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PPP loans overwhelmingly went to white men, just 3% went to Black-owned businesses

While most Paycheck Protection Program recipients did not identify their race, federal records show, in the Carolinas, only 64 of those who did are Black.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Of the small business owners who identified their race on Paycheck Protection Program applications, newly released federal records show white men received the vast majority of large government loans.

In North Carolina and South Carolina, records show Black-owned businesses secured just 3% of PPP loans worth $150,000 or more. 

Of the 2,026 small business owners and non-profits in the Carolinas who identified their race in their PPP applications, only 64 of them are Black, while 1,791 are white, according to federal data.

"It's indicative of what's been happening all over the country for years and specifically, it's indicative of what's been happening here in Charlotte," NAACP President Rev. Corine Mack said. "This is why I'm so vocal, this is why I'm so frustrated and quite frankly, this is why I get so angry."

The data, collected by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Small Business Administration, reveal most PPP recipients did not identify a race, which makes it difficult to identify the full scope of disparities. 

For example, we found a handful of businesses and non-profits on Beatties Ford Road that received larger loans that didn't specify a race. In addition, records show Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black college, received a PPP loan of $5 to $10 million. 

We also know other Black-owned small businesses in Charlotte secured approval for smaller PPP loans.

Coretta Livingston is one of those business owners. She owns Venue At 1801, an event space in Charlotte's Historic West End. Struggling with the loss of business and debt due to COVID-19, she applied for a PPP loan. Initially denied for a government loan without any explanation, Livingston said her event business recently received approval, but unfortunately, she's still waiting for the $16,000 to arrive.

"I need that money and I need it now," she said. "I needed it yesterday. As soon as I can put it in my hands, I'll be the happiest young lady probably in Charlotte."

Livingston, who lost her full-time job in April, said she only knows six other Black-owned businesses that received PPP loans.

"It's almost like the big companies, they didn't have to wait," she said. "They got their money, they started spending it immediately and making more money. People like me, we're still waiting."

Fran's Kids Daycare on Beatties Ford Road is another Black-owned business that received a PPP loan. Owner Fran Witherspoon said the $85,000 she received helped retain her already small staff.

"It definitely took a lot of pressure off of me initially," she said.

Mack said the PPP disparities are indicative of our country's failure to prioritize Black-owned businesses. She said investing money in Black communities is critical to ensuring equity. 

"That's how you create change. Your words mean nothing, they're empty, if there's no action behind the words," Mack said. "Are we invisible? Does our pain not feel like pain to some folks? When we cry, do you not see our tears? This is a serious problem and it's not just in Charlotte."

In addition to Black-owned businesses, PPP records show of those in the Carolinas that identified their race, 92 are Asian-owned businesses, 65 are Hispanic-owned businesses and 14 are American Indian--owned businesses. Only 16% of PPP recipients receiving $150,000 or more in those states said they were women.

Federal auditors previously found banks did not always prioritize women and minority business owners.

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