By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

During the first three months of the pandemic, approximately 442,000 – or 41 percent – of Black businesses shuttered. 

As COVID continues to hamper progress, the overall decline of small and minority-owned firms remains striking.

Data culled from multiple studies revealed that Latinx business owners fell by 32 percent and Asian business owners dropped by 26 percent. Meanwhile, the number of White business owners fell by 17 percent.

While the current climate has exacerbated the wealth gap and unveiled the unimagined financial straits of Black and other minority companies, studies also revealed that about 58 percent of African American-owned businesses were at risk of fiscal distress even before the outbreak of the pandemic in February 2020.

“There’s no question it has been a challenge,” said Ron Busby, the president and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. in Northwest, Washington, D.C.

“Last year was a difficult time for the majority of businesses in America with COVID, the murder of George Floyd, and the Stimulus Package – or lack thereof, in our community,” said Busby, who visited the new state-of-the-art television studios of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for an appearance on PBS-TV’s “The Chavis Chronicles.”

NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. hosts the nationally televised program.

“When you talk to Black business owners, very few received any stimulus money,” Busby continued. “We lost 41 percent of Black businesses, and many of them will never re-open, and many of those firms had employees, vendors, and customers.”

Such losses critically hurt the tax base in Black communities while White firms have stepped in to replace some of the lost businesses, Busby noted.

To better understand the alarming loss of Black-owned firms, some have reflected on pre-pandemic statistics, which revealed that between 2012 and 2017, Black-owned businesses with no employees in the United States increased 19.2 percent.

According to BlackDemographics.com, receipts generated by Black-owned businesses with no employees during the same period increased from $46.8 billion in 2012 to $65.7 billion in 2017.

Overall, Black-owned employer businesses in the United States increased 13.6 percent, while the number of employees at those firms rose by 23.9 percent.

“It’s difficult to start a business out of the gate, and it’s going to be tough to try and have them come back,” Busby stated.

He said the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. provides leadership and advocacy in the realization of economic empowerment. 

The organization supports African American Chambers of Commerce and business organizations by helping them develop and grow Black enterprises.

Busby said the U.S. Black Chamber also works with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by joining quarterly discussions on issues pertinent to African American business owners.

“We also have an entire economic conversation about America,” Busby remarked. “For us to have a great America, there must be a great Black America. So, to have a great Black America, we’ve got to have great Black businesses,” he asserted.

Busby also bristled at the continued conversation surrounding the more than $1 trillion Black Americans reportedly contribute to the economy.

“It’s an interesting number,” Busby contemplated. 

“Usually, it’s corporate America saying Black consumers have $1 trillion. How can we market to them to make sure that they get their share? The U.S. Black Chamber says, ‘we as Black consumers have $1 trillion, how can we keep that in our community to make sure that our communities have sustainability?’” 

Born in Houston, Texas, and raised in Oakland, Calif., Busby said the Black Panthers, which his father served as a member, displayed a commitment to the Black community that has helped him keep his resolve to better the plight of African Americans.

“I saw the impact that Black men have on communities, making sure that we are leading each other in a positive environment,” Busby reminisced. 

“That stayed with me all my life, and I’ve been involved in fraternities and 100 Black Men. Then, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where [Arizona Informant Publisher] Cloves Campbell allowed me to know more about the NNPA and national news. Then, in 2009, I got the call to come to Washington for the U.S. Black Chamber.”

Busby added that the Black Chamber also focuses on expanding throughout the globe.

“We think about the Black dollar globally because that’s the future for Black businesses,” Busby concluded.