It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on people of color, and in underinvested places—in the form of higher death rates, steeper unemployment, and deeper distress among the small BIPOC-owned businesses so critical to community vitality.

Many of these mom-and-pops found themselves unable to shift to remote work and short on cash reserves, with their customers hard hit, too. They’ve suffered sharper revenue declines and more closures than enterprises owned by white people.

But it’s not too late to set the stage for a fairer small business recovery. In fact, the time is now to focus on creating more equitable local ecosystems for small business over the long run. We must identify and eliminate disadvantages that have nothing to do with an entrepreneur’s grit and talent and everything to do with unequal access to what makes up a small business ecosystem: the network of capital, services, and supports that every enterprise needs to get on its feet and grow.

This, we believe, is the way to foster opportunity and long-term resiliency for all entrepreneurs who confront entrenched inequities, including people of color, women, immigrants, and refugees, and people with lower incomes and wealth.

And it will take concerted collaboration in local markets across the country. In a new brief, Building Equitable Local Ecosystems for Small Business, LISC’s economic development team offers a guide for how cross-sectoral groups can analyze local opportunity gaps and implement data-driven strategies to redress them. We hope local stakeholders—from business development organizations (BDOs) to small-business lenders to community advocates and government representatives—will begin or intensify this work as soon as possible.

Read the full article about equitable small business recovery by Bill Taft at LISC.