LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Minority and women-owned businesses are taking some of the hardest economic hits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts say nearly 90% of these businesses have yet to receive federal relief funding.
Fox 4 spoke to a local gym owner about her struggle to make ends meet.
“I am a child of immigrants, we didn’t have a stepping stone to success, we kind of had to learn by trial and error, ” said Cherline Louissaint.
Cherline Louissant, owner of Increase the Peach Health and Fitness Studio in Fort Myers says couldn’t have imagined the financial hardship her business would go through, when she opened just six months ago.
“When something goes wrong its always the minorities and minority businesses that are hurt the most, ” said Fort Myers Councilmember Johnny Streets.
According to a report from the Center for Responsible Lending, businesses of color account for 30% of all U.S. businesses, contributing to nearly 7.2 million jobs; yet they are least likely to receive federal funding.
Louissaint has applied for funding through The Small Business Administration but has yet to receive any assistance.
“I most recently got an email saying it was in queue, ” said Louissaint.
“We still have to pay the rent still, have to keep the electricity on, have to keep it moving so the place doesn’t rust over, ” said Cherline Louissaint.
According research by JPMorgan Chase & Co., over 90% of small businesses in majority-black or Hispanic communities have cash reserves fewer than 14 days.
Vincent Keeys, president of the Collier County NAACP chapter, says many of these businesses can’t afford to wait any longer.
“We are in a crisis like this, and everyone is asked to stay home, that business is literally on the brink of failure,” said Vincent Keeys.
“In most cases, we don’t have the access, ” said Keeys.
The lack of access to financial literacy courses, fair lending policies, equity, and transparency.
Councilmember Streets, says the county is currently working to support small businesses.
“I want to do anything I can to advocate, or ask someone to do anything they can to save our communities, ” said Fort Myers Council member Johnny Streets.
Lee County received 130 million in COVID-19 relief funding, nearly 25 million will be allocated to help rebuild small businesses.