On Wednesday June 16th, one hundred small business leaders from a variety of industries across the nation converged on Capitol Hill (in person and virtually) to urge Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan and its 100% clean energy standard. Negotiations on the bill have currently been slowed down as some members of Congress continue to try to water down the Plan.
Business leaders spoke about how the infrastructure plan will help their businesses grow and prepare for the effects of climate change. Speakers included Debra Keller-Greene from the Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce and Government Affairs Director Awesta Sarkash of the Small Business Majority.
The infrastructure package would invest $31 billion in programs to give small businesses access to credit, venture capital, and research and development funds, with a focus on supporting entrepreneurs in communities of color and underserved communities. It also dedicates $110 billion to technical assistance and financing programs for small businesses and manufacturers.
Separately, 56 small business owners signed a letter to Congress signaling the need for direct support and investments that the American Jobs Plan would provide.
We talked to these individuals about why the American Jobs Plan matters for their businesses. This is what they said:
“Now, more than ever, we need to significantly invest in essential provisions that will directly help small businesses thrive,” said Awesta Sarkash, Government Affairs director for Small Business Majority. “Through the American Jobs Plan, Congress can commit to clean energy policies that will help to bolster small businesses and improve our infrastructure. We can’t stand idle and watch an opportunity to modernize and reinvigorate local economies go away. Now is the time to support critical investments for our small businesses.”
“Passing the American Jobs Plan and a commitment to 100% clean energy would be tremendously helpful for small businesses like ours, and Congress should move quickly to act on climate and infrastructure,” said Director of Marketing and Operations Emily Tokarowski of Neighborhood Sun Benefit Corp.
“We have a rapidly narrowing window of time to pass the sweeping climate legislation that is urgently needed for a just and sustainable future,” said Ali-Reza “A.R.” Vahabzadeh, Vice President, Membership & Chief of Staff at the American Sustainable Business Council. “AS
BC and the over 250,000 businesses and investors we represent support the American Jobs Plan and its initiatives such as creating a new Civilian Climate Corp. Addressing our climate crisis can put us on the path to rebuilding a thriving and equitable economy.”
“Small businesses will continue to suffer unless there is a major policy intervention at the federal level,” said Stephen Michael, co-executive director of Main Street Action. “That’s why we’re looking to Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan immediately — and by budget reconciliation if necessary.”
“The Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce is responsive to the needs of our members, and we welcome the collaboration with this coalition of leaders in bringing clean energy to our cities and direct support to black-owned businesses through increased access to federal contracts, financing and technical assistance programs,” said Debra Keller-Greene from the Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce.
This event, for the first time since the American Jobs Plan was unveiled by Joe Biden in March, brought together small business owners and “mom-and-pop” establishments to rally in support of clean energy standards and bring urgency to the climate crisis across the nation. Small businesses are the lifeblood of America’s economy. They generate nearly half of all economic activity in America and create 64 percent of new jobs. However, only half of small businesses have returned to normal levels of operation since before the pandemic. Many businesses will remain closed permanently. These establishments are calling on Congress to pass a strong $2.3 trillion infrastructure package immediately.
The United States needs massive infrastructure investment to combat the climate crisis, including efforts to build zero emission affordable housing, expand electrification of transportation, allow for walkable communities, replace lead pipes, launch a Climate Conservation Corps, and more. President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes these provisions, and specifically invests in historically disadvantaged communities to do so.
This is the second event in the “100 Leaders for 100% Clean Energy” summer event series, co-hosted by Ceres, the American Sustainable Business Council, the Main Street Action, the Hip Hop Caucus, Evergreen Action, and CCAN Action Fund. We hope you’ll continue to join us.