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By Rinaldie Jacobs, Sr.

There's a running joke in the black community that when the white community gets a cold, we catch pneumonia. This point can be clearly illustrated in the current unemployment and labor market. Due to COVID-19 millions of Americans currently are collecting unemployment. This is a major problem for minority communities because they have been number one hit harder by the COVID 19 pandemic do too their position in low wage and low skill positions. The lack of affordable health care for many frontline workers put them at a severe disadvantage.

The Biden administration has stated that they will have a tremendous focus on disinvested and disadvantaged communities while rolling out the new vaccines for COVID 19. Many African Americans have preexisting conditions which makes them vulnerable to getting the COVID virus. Many frontline workers such as store stockers cashier's, restaurant workers, another service workers or a great risk of exposure to the general public. The workers responsible for keeping hospitals in nursing homes clean and operational are often minimum wage workers. Lately, some corporations are starting to see the value of these frontline workers. This could be in part because of the push from the Biden administration to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.

Today Walmart the nation's leading retailer announced raises for all of their employees. Starting employees will make on an average of $11.50 an hour. Others will be moved up to $15.00 an hour for their daily work. While we cheer these increases to get to a living wage, the state of Louisiana is one of the few states which still has the $7.00 an hour minimum wage has refused to change it. To be clear Louisiana is not the only Gulf South state with $7.25 an hour, Texas Mississippi Alabama, in Georgia all have the same federal minimum wage.

Arkansas leads the region with a $9.25 an hour minimum wage followed by Florida at $8.25 an hour. many of us see a gradual increase in the minimum wage coming out of the Biden administration in the next two to three years. The old arguments that raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses is in part a fool's errand. If people, make more they tend to spend more particularly those in disinvested communities.

The long shadow of racial justice still hangs over policy as well as business operations. Another Great American icon McDonald's Corporation has announced that executive pay will be tide to its growth in diversity and inclusion. McDonald's said Thursday it is taking steps to increase the number of women and people from historically underrepresented groups in its senior leadership ranks. By 2025, the company aims to have at least 35% of its senior-director and higher leadership roles be held by people from minorities. The company also stated but it will be pursuing having more women in leadership positions throughout the company.

Politically we should always bear in mind the corporations often do what's in their bottom-line best interest. While the Senate did not convict former President Donald J Trump of insurrection based upon the impeachment docket presented to the Senate. Louisiana's senator David Cassidy voted with the majority of Democrats and nine other Republicans to convict president trump. Under the rules of the Senate 17 Republicans had to go along with the 50 Democrats to convict Mr. Trump. Needless to say, the Biden administration wants to put the matters of Trumpness in the rearview mirror of history. They will now focus on getting shots in arms and getting the economy back on its feet.

Here in Baton Rouge, we are seeing a number of programs seeking to help small businesses through grants as well as other assistance. The office of the Mayor President Sharon Weston Broom and the Urban League recently announced the following in a press release:

Micro-enterprises and small businesses are the backbone of East Baton Rouge Parish’s economy providing countless services to the residents of EBR and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has significantly impacted many of the businesses that our community has come to depend on. To meet the short-term financial needs of microenterprises and small businesses, the Office of Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome is offering one-time, micro-grants of $2,500 to eligible entities that have been impacted by Covid-19 through the Resilient Restart EBR: Small Business Micro-grants Program. You can find out more about these grants at

Full disclosure, as a business consultant for the Southern University small business development center LSBDC, often we get announcements about great programs four small business owners. Another program being sponsored and promoted by the Urban League of Louisiana touts a grant that you can apply for. In their announcement it states the following : The National Community Reinvestment Coalition announces the launch of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Small Business Growth & Recovery Fund grant program. The initiative offers a unique 360-degree solution awarding U.S.-based small businesses with up to $20,000 each, which does not need to be repaid, accompanied with complementary virtual training and mentorship. The program seeks to help U.S. small businesses, focusing on those owned by people of color, women, and veterans as well as those in lower-income communities, find their footing in an acutely challenging economic landscape. The application period will remain open from February 17, 2021 until 11:59 PM EST on March 19th, 2021. This program is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Email me at and I will send you the email with a link to apply. Make 2021 your year that you use all of these great resources. Keeping it Strickly Business.

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