Shapiro announces $20 million in new funding for divested small businesses
Governor’s Shapiro budget address included an anecdote about Latino business owners in Reading, Pennsylvania.
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The Shapiro administration unveiled a much-anticipated budget address on Tuesday, March 7, in an announcement that outlined million-dollar investments into the agricultural sector, childcare services for low-income families, and minority businesses, among many other industries.
In his remarks — lasting an hour and a half in all — Governor Josh Shapiro highlighted conversations with Latino small business owners in Reading to precede a new $20 million injection into the Office of Transformation and Opportunity to support “historically disadvantaged businesses.”
“We’ll provide long, overdue funding for women and minority-owned businesses all across this commonwealth to support their growth and open up new opportunities,” said Shapiro, introducing the new funding.
Shapiro cited an instance in Reading, PA, in his candidate days, where he spoke to a Latino business owner who was looking to open a supermarket in a food desert but fell $600,000 short of lifting the project.
“I visited with Latino business owners in Reading who are trying to meet their community's needs, but they just need access to more capital,” the governor continued.
The administration’s $20 million proposal follows efforts to spur economic growth in the Commonwealth by establishing an office that will assist businesses in cutting through red tape and easing the regulatory burden.
An executive order in January set the pace for this initiative by creating the Office of Transformation and Opportunity, poised to be led by Ben Kirshner, the former CEO of Tinuiti, a marketing firm.
Shapiro’s order describes this initiative as a one-stop-shop for coordinating Commonwealth agencies — including agency permit and license reviews, and ensuring speed of business review and approval of “economic incentive programs.”
Today's address, which pointed to disadvantaged businesses, cements those efforts to supply minority-owned commercial corridors with support by using state dollars to intervene in the application process, though negotiations are yet to be finalized.
Berks State Representative Manny Guzman, who told AL DÍA he was impressed with the proposed spending, said Shapiro “cares about our community and people of color,” in an interview following the address.
“$20 million is obviously not enough,” explained Guzman, “but it provides us with a pathway to ‘now we have this embedded in our tax code and our budget,’ and from here on out, it’s not something that can be easily eliminated.”
Guzman, who, in addition to representing districts with rising Latino communities, has helped usher in new political leadership, said the budget also sets a precedent.
“We want to build so much constituency around it that, whoever is Governor, whether its Governor Shapiro or a future governor, the only choice that they have is to invest and reinvest into this program by adding more resources on a year-to-year basis.”
Negotiations over the final budget are likely to continue through June 30, Guzman said, but the inclusion of this line item could also inspire neighboring lawmakers to promote the program in their respective districts.
From the campaign to the governor’s chair
Shapiro’s budget address was largely consistent with his general messaging, specifically around supporting small businesses.
In July, as he ramped up tours around PA, Shapiro and the campaign toured the North Philly area along with some of the city’s notables like Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, mayoral candidate Maria Quiñones Sánchez, and State Rep. Danilo Burgos.
He’d pledged investments, grants, and loans for Latino business owners and vowed to help businesses secure permits and increase access to applications, per AL DÍA reporting.
“I know that it left an impression on Governor Shapiro,” said Guzman, responding to questions about Shapiro’s messaging and consistency and “the need to help (...) the growing Latino community across the Commonwealth.”