PHILADELPHIA—Today, Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), and Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) issued the following statement on the need for federal stimulus funding to be used to promote an equitable economic recovery for Philadelphia workers and businesses, with support from the Sustainable Business Network and additional organizations. Research shows that Philadelphia is the only major city proposing to use federal funds for sweeping tax cuts, which have proven to be an ineffective strategy for economic development compared to targeted assistance and relief. Instead, the Councilmembers propose an equitable recovery by creating a Quality Jobs Program and investing in small and local businesses, particularly those with Black, Brown and immigrant ownership:
“As Philadelphia emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, our city needs to ensure an equitable economic recovery that invests in both our small and local businesses and our workers.
“The effects of the pandemic have not been felt equally. Our Black, Brown, immigrant, and neighborhood businesses have been the hardest hit. Women, particularly Black women, have experienced the greatest loss of income, and many wages remain far too low. At the same time, the pandemic spurred new cottage industries and opportunities that – if supported – could grow into flourishing businesses
“The historic $1.4 billion in federal relief funding our City has received creates an opportunity for us to act strategically. We have the ability to target funding to where it will have the greatest impact, instead of broad and incremental tax cuts that do not constitute the real tax reform we need and which disproportionately benefit large corporations and suburban commuters.
“Investing in an economic recovery led by our Black, Brown, immigrant, and local businesses means restoring cuts to our Commerce Department and devoting real resources to business incubation and expansion – from increasing our support for business technical assistance and mentorship to ensuring startup space and capital. It means investing in our commercial corridors and revitalizing storefronts that have been closed for over a year. And it means funding a Quality Jobs program, where we make sure the public dollars that incentivize business attraction and retention truly go to creating family-sustaining jobs, while helping businesses afford to attract and keep the workers they need to be truly successful.
“Our city’s recovery depends on the economic health of all our neighborhoods. We will not allow the communities who have been hardest hit by the pandemic to be left behind now as well. Instead, we can invest relief funding where it will have the greatest impact in building wealth and helping our neighborhoods flourish.”
Community Organizations and Black and Brown Local Businesses Support Investing in Equitable Economic Recovery
Over the past year, the City of Philadelphia distributed emergency grants to over 2,000 small businesses, prioritizing our businesses most in need and those that have been historically disadvantaged, with over 50% of funding going to high-poverty census tracts and over 65% percent going to minority-owned businesses. This funding had positive impact, increasing employment and immediately circulating dollars back into our local economy. Small business leaders cite these grants as proof that Philadelphia has effective options and the ability to lead an equitable recovery:
“Research consistently shows that thriving independent business communities are linked to higher incomes, less economic inequality, stronger community cohesion and wellbeing, and improved environmental sustainability,” said Anna Shipp, Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN). “Emerging from a challenging year, the City has a historic opportunity to approve a strategic and visionary budget that holistically addresses Philadelphia’s historic inequality, poverty, obstacles to local independent businesses, and climate change. Now more than ever, we need to build a foundation for shared prosperity and a just, green, and thriving economy.”
“The last year has seen our small businesses and commercial corridor managers do everything in their power to continue to serve our communities in this incredible time of need. Corridors are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods and now we need to make sure they have the investments they need to keep them clean, safe, and help small businesses thrive,” said Garrett O’Dwyer, of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC), a member of the City of Philadelphia Livable Communities Network, a coalition of two dozen organizations calling for major investments in neighborhood businesses, core public services like parks and libraries, affordable housing, and cleaner and safer streets.
“Decades of disinvestment and financial redlining have left our region with a BIPOC business community that is weaker and smaller than peer cities,” said J’nelle Lawrence, director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia’s PAGE (Philadelphia Anchors for Growth & Equity) initiative. “That’s why PAGE is laser-focused on leveraging the purchasing power of our large anchor institutions to drive growth for our Black and brown-owned local firms. Through data analytics we are mapping opportunities, and through partnerships with consulting firms and impact investors and other nonprofits in the space, we are making sure our businesses have the resources they need to achieve scale. In sum, we are converting conversations into contracts and transforming procurement systems in the private sector. We urge the public sector to follow our lead.”
“This city still has the infrastructure and imagination from the age of white flight,” said Tayyib Smith, principal at Little Giant Creative, Smith & Roller and The Collective. “It has never invested in Black businesses and Black neighborhoods, it has no best practices to lift people out of poverty. Philly offers too many remedial services instead of giving people agency over their own fiscal destiny. The majority of Black businesses in the city don’t need tax incentives – they need investment. If Philly wants to cast off its tagline, ‘largest, Blackest, poorest city in the nation,’ we need to invest in the people who have yet to reap the full benefits of their citizenship: Black and Brown citizens. We need to remove the shackles of disinvestment and racist policies and instead invest in Black and Brown businesses.”
“We have an opportunity to bring financial benefits to homeowners, businesses, and local governments,” said Yocasta Lora, AARP PA’s Associate State Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement, also a member of the City of Philadelphia Livable Communities Network. “Local, small businesses are essential to making Philadelphia a more livable community by helping to improve the local economy, provide employment opportunities, and encourage civic engagement. AARP Pennsylvania supports efforts that encourage entrepreneurship and small businesses that serve the 50+ community and make our city more livable for visitors and residents of all ages and abilities.”
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