Illinois leaders, small business owners petition federal government for aid to African American-owned businesses

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the American economy, there's a new effort to set aside funds for African American businesses.

Many small business owners in the Chicago area are waiting for word about federal loans from the stimulus plan. Now there's an effort to earmark some of the federal funds for black-owned businesses in particular.

"So much information about incidences in the black community, I thought it might be a possibility to get something dedicated to the black community," said Sam Scott, retired CEO of Corn Products International.

RELATED: Chicago coronavirus cases are mostly African Americans, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says

Wednesday night a letter went to President Donald Trump and members of Congress, urging 25 percent of a proposed $250 billion Payroll Protection Program go to black-owned businesses looking for loans. The letter was signed by business leaders in Chicago.'

"If we don't do something to keep these black businesses and non-profits alive and afloat, then the situation will just get progressively worse," Scott said.

RELATED: New relief fund aims to help black communities affected by COVID-19 in Cook County

"For small business owners, it's a very trying time," said Stacy Hawkins-Armstrong, owner of Sha-Poppin Gourmet Popcorn in Westchester. "It's hard."

Business at Sha-Poppin is down 50 percent. Hawkins-Armstrong has applied for federal help and wants to keep her business open, not only for herself but for the young people on her payroll.

"I'm hoping these federal funds will come through to help me so I can keep the young people I have employed, because that is my goal: to keep them working," she said.

"If we want the Chicago and other metropolitan areas to flourish, the entirety of the community has to flourish," said Scott.

More business leaders locally are signing onto the letter as Congress debates another stimulus package and small business owners try to hold on for themselves and their communities.
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