(Washington, D.C.)—U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today called for additional federal support for small businesses during a virtual town hall hosted by The Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The town hall was moderated by JHU Vice President for Economic Development Alicia Wilson and questions were submitted by the small business owners who participated in the event.

“I am disappointed that Congress still has not passed another economic relief bill despite ample evidence that small businesses and American families are still struggling under the public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19,” Cardin said. “Today’s discussion made clear that small businesses in Baltimore face many uncertain months ahead, and they are counting on Congress to act to help them survive COVID-19. Democrats and Republicans must sit down to pass a relief bill that meets the scale of the economic crisis facing our nation.”

“For institutions such as ours to continue flourishing, our city must flourish as well. And that is only possible when all those who live and work in Baltimore prosper – particularly the innovative cadre of small business owners who fuel the economic health of our city,” said Ronald J. Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins University, pointing to several Hopkins programs that aim to lift up the Baltimore business community, such as HopkinsLocal and the Johns Hopkins Covid Anchor Initiative. “During the coronavirus pandemic, this bond of mutual dependence has only deepened. Our small business owners have persevered, shifting gears to supply frontline workers with needed supplies. In turn, we have sought to support them by offering guidance on COVID-19 business strategies, implementing workplace safety, and reliable public health information. All to ensure that we can – and will – find a clear way forward together.”

“During this pandemic, Johns Hopkins has remained focused on ensuring that Baltimore’s entrepreneurs have access to one of the most important tools for any business – accurate and reliable information,” said Alicia Wilson, Vice President for Economic Development for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the pre-existing disparities that minority entrepreneurs face in access to capital, mentorship and technical training. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, from February to April of this year, 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.

Last month, Cardin, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Senate Democrats unveiled the Economic Justice Act, a major new legislative proposal to make $350 billion in immediate and long-term investments in Black communities and other communities of color. For far too long, Congress has underfunded critical priorities like public health, child care, infrastructure, and job creation in these communities. The plan would make a historic federal commitment to communities of color through ten major investments over the next five years.

In June, Cardin and Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Chris Coons (Del.) introduced the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, which would authorize new lending under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to small businesses with 100 employees or less, including sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals. Eligible businesses must have already expended an initial PPP loan, or be on pace to exhaust the funding, and must demonstrate a revenue loss of 50 percent or more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would extend the application deadline for initial PPP loans from June 30 to December 30, or longer, at the discretion of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and would use existing PPP funding to make P4 loans.

In May, Cardin and Booker released a proposal to make improvements to federal small business relief programs in order to make it easier for minorities and other underserved small business owners to access the capital they need to survive COVID-19. The senators’ proposal also addresses historical, systemic disparities in access to startup and operating capital, as well as technical training and mentorship, so underserved small businesses have the resources they need to adapt their businesses to the changes caused by COVID-19.