This post is created to provide more information surrounding my application to serve on the Small Business Administration’s Council on Underserved Communities in July 2021.
About the SBA Council on Underserved Communities: https://www.sba.gov/node/15667
Press release of SBA announcement (June 22, 2021) to reconvene the Council: https://www.sba.gov/article/2021/jun/22/sba-reconvenes-council-underserved-communities
I started my career in the early 1980s working with two of Wall Street’s most powerful firms that did a phenomenal job of making rich people even richer. We did that by providing the financing to allow big corporations to buy other big corporations, eliminate waste (jobs), and boost short term profits. It was not sustainable and ultimately ethically unsupportable. I became convinced that restoring the strength of small businesses was our society’s best hope for strength and sustainability and I refocused my career in that direction.
I served small businesses for the next three decades, started, sold and closed a few businesses myself, and served in supporting roles with community and trade associations that shared similar goals.
When our rural South Jersey community was wiped out by superstorm Sandy in late 2012, I watched the “disaster after the disaster” unfold as government aid rebuilt larger businesses but ultimately let most of my small business neighbors fail. My own businesses suffered, were unable to find recovery financing, and then became victims of the widespread FEMA flood insurance fraud. We barely held on to our home and business. I worked as a volunteer with several regional nonprofits, especially Baysave, to support the recovery and sustainability of our local small business community.
Now this year I see a repeat of the same disaster pattern. “Disaster After the Disaster 2” is unfolding in our rural lower income communities in the wake of the COVID pandemic. This issue came into sharp focus last month at the virtual NJCPA convention. Most of the state’s northern CPA firms report record growth and robust recovery of their clients. Meanwhile many of my clients in the southern region of the state are out of business. In my small working waterfront community, businesses suffered from looting, break-ins, storm damage and deferred maintenance during the legally mandated shut down of 2020. We suffered the loss of key people and I was physically assaulted trying to protect a neighbor’s property from a person intent on ripping it apart for scrap metal. We trusted that government would provide some assistance to help us reopen our businesses after all we endured. Yet almost every application to SBA for assistance was declined. Our commercial boatyard and its seafood and recreational businesses remain closed today. The business clients that reopened moved elsewhere. We noticed throughout the process that SBA procedures unintentionally but systematically screen out businesses in our smaller, rural and lower income communities from participating in assistance programs.
Our underserved small business community remains in a state of crisis. Local SBA staff is empathetic but unable to make a difference within the current system. I remain committed to addressing the widening wealth and income gap created, in part, by unequal government treatment of smaller, rural and lower income communities by the Small Business Administration. At this point, one of the most effective strategies I can adapt is to offer my volunteer services and advocate for a local voice on the SBA Council of Underserved Communities.
My cover letter with the application:
Endorsement letter (email) of the New Jersey Society of CPAs: