Publisher’s Note: Who is looking out for Black-owned businesses at the Statehouse?

Black-owned businesses were removed from Ohio’s MBE certification program during the COVID pandemic

By Ronda Watson Barber
OhioMBE Publisher

Black-owned businesses are essential.  Black-owned businesses are important to Ohio’s economy.  Black-owned businesses typically hire Black employees.  Black businesses matter. The State of Ohio doesn’t appear to value and appreciate Black-owned businesses. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio removed an undisclosed number of minority and Black-owned businesses from the certification program because their certifications expired.  The State of Ohio gave extensions and grace to taxpayers and drivers, but not the Buckeye State’s most vulnerable businesses.  COVID hit Ohio businesses hard, but Black-owned businesses suffered greatly.

  • A recent Goldman Sachs survey of small businesses found that Black-owned businesses have been slower to recover than their white-owned peers. The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on minority-owned businesses has been disproportionate – and the uneven economic recovery has unearthed even more disparities.
  • An H&R Block survey of almost 3,000 small businesses found that 53% of Black business owners saw their revenue drop by half, compared to 37% of White owners, since the pandemic started.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that small business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22% between February 2020 and April 2020, but Black ownership dropped 41% — the greatest decline among all racial groups during the depths of the pandemic.
  • A Main Street Alliance/Color of Change poll released in October found that only 40% of Black business owners expected to remain open over the ensuing six months, compared with 46% of Asian respondents, 48% of Latinx owners, and 55% of Whites.

So why would the department responsible for certifying Black-owned businesses remove them?  Per its website, the MBE program is designed to assist minority businesses in obtaining state government contracts for goods and services. The state of Ohio developed the program because it recognized the need to encourage, nurture, and support the growth of minority businesses to foster their development and increase the number of qualified competitors in the marketplace.

On April 26,  I requested from Monica Womack, Chief, Minority Business Division, the number of Black-owned businesses removed from the certification program during the pandemic.  

I specifically asked the following questions:

  • How many certifications expired or lapsed during the COVID pandemic?
  • Were efforts made to extend the expiration dates? If not, why?
  • Is the State reaching out to those whose certificates expired during the pandemic?

To date, after sending numerous emails, I have received no response from the Minority Business Division.

I wonder what the economic impact of being removed from the certification program is causing Black firms?  One Black-owned company owner said she was too preoccupied getting her three children online with Zoom school to think about her certifications.  I am working with her to complete the entire certification application AGAIN.  What is the cost to taxpayers to process a certification application?

I sent a note to Daniel Tierney, Governor DeWine’s media contact on June 23, June 28, and July 1.  No response. I left a voicemail message on June 20. No response.

I sent a note to the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.  No response.

I sent a note to a Black Columbus State Representative. No response.

I sent a not to Nan Whaley, candidate for governor. No response.

I notified my state representative Mark Frazier, a white Republican.  He RESPONDED! He has called me multiple times to update me on who he is meeting with to resolve this issue.  He is more concerned about Black businesses being removed from the certification program than the Black woman, and her predominately Black department, who allowed Black businesses to be removed from the rolls.  He is more concerned than the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus. The Caucus consists of Black elected officials whose website says “Championing the Causes of African Americans in Ohio Year-round.”

If Black people working in Ohio Government and those elected to represent us aren’t looking out for Black businesses if guess we must look for allies elsewhere. 

Just my thoughts…rwb

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