Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee, led by Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), held a remote hearing exploring the importance of immigrant-owned businesses to the American economy and their role in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If our economy is to recover, we need immigrant businesses operating at full strength. As was the case in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the businesses that suffered the most during COVID will play a significant role in our recovery,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “As increased vaccinations diminish the severity of the public health crisis and return to normalcy, new businesses started by immigrants will drive local economic growth. Our witnesses today are a testament to what is possible when immigrant business owners receive adequate support.”
Immigrant entrepreneurs start businesses at a higher rate than the general population, accounting for 28 percent of Main Street business owners. These firms often serve as a force multiplier in their communities, buying local products for their business, creating local jobs, and ultimately making locations more attractive places to live. Despite the prominent role they’ve attained in the American economy, the pandemic has presented immigrant business owners with monumental setbacks. Between February and April, COVID closed over one million immigrant-owned businesses, dropping the active rate of immigrant business ownership by 36 percent.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers various programs geared toward helping immigrant entrepreneurs through resource partners like Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and the SCORE program. During the hearing, Members examined how current SBA offerings are serving immigrant business owners and actions Congress can take to ensure these firms are on the path to equitable recovery.
“Immigrants faced extraordinary challenges over this past year. They were more exposed to COVID than the population overall, and immigrants got sick and died in disproportionate numbers,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative. “The Paycheck Protection Program, PPP, was the most important support for small businesses in the pandemic recession, but it well known that people of color and immigrants were far less likely to benefit from the PPP loans. Industries and geographic areas where immigrants are prevalent are very often the same as those that were hardest hit by the pandemic recession.”
“From child care, to restaurants, to the internet of things, the immigrant entrepreneur and small business owner is critical to current and future of our small business ecosystem,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, Acting Regional Director, San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network. “As our economy comes back from the Covid-19 pandemic, the passion, hard work, and creativity of our immigrant communities can and will play a critical part to helping our recovery to be inclusive and be even better.”
“I am thankful to the House of Representatives and committee members as you continue to highlight the gift of immigration and the impact of immigrant-owned business innovation in our country, particularly as we continue recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jaja Chen, Co-Owner of Waco Cha, LLC in Waco, TX. “Our lives in America are enriched and our economy is stronger when we celebrate the diverse and rich perspectives, stories, and strengths of immigrants.”