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Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and entrepreneurship has always been a path to prosperity for many Washingtonians. Local businesses help reduce the racial wealth gap, provide jobs in communities, and reduce commercial gentrification. But to be successful, local businesses need to have access to affordable commercial space, funding to start their businesses, meaningful technical support and above all, a level playing field. As a Councilmember, Kenyan successfully advocated for funding to help local businesses acquire commercial space. Kenyan also authored and passed a landmark emergency law that directed $100 Million in grants to assist District businesses in their pandemic recovery efforts. Additionally, Kenyan put in place some of the strongest local business procurement requirements and resources the District has witnessed to-date. When elected as an At-Large Councilmember, Kenyan will expand on these efforts so that small businesses have more opportunities and less obstacles in serving their customers for many years to come. 

Great Streets and Main Streets:

Kenyan has been a champion on the Council for programs that support and attract small businesses along our city’s major thoroughfares. He authored legislation adopted by the Council that designated Ward 5’s two Great Streets, North Capitol Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE, as Retail Priority Areas. The law creates jobs, increases tourism and generates revenue for the local economy. He also secured funding for thoroughfares along Rhode Island, H Street, Bladensburg Road and Benning Road to lift the boards off of commercial fronts that had long been shuttered. Great Street and Maine Street programs support the growth and development of neighborhood businesses, beautify their respective corridors, enhance neighborhood engagement, and attract and retain new businesses to these corridors.

Small businesses in the District face historical challenges when it comes to accessing capital. In particular, systemic racism has long made capital less accessible for business owners of color. Thanks to Kenyan’s tireless efforts, the Commercial Property Acquisition Fund will allow socially disadvantaged business owners to apply for grants of up to $750,000 to purchase their commercial property here in the District of Columbia.

As previously highlighted, minority-owned businesses disproportionately face barriers to financing in order to start and grow their businesses. Kenyan successfully secured grant funding for community development financial institutions (CDFI) and minority deposit institutions (MDI) that provide critical access to capital to entrepreneurs of color. These investments will help to chip away at the District’s racial wealth gap, increases employment opportunities for Black and Brown residents who experience a significantly higher unemployment rate in the District, and reduces commercial gentrification.

Helping Small Business Owners become Commercial Property Owners:

Investing in Minority-Owned Businesses:

Reducing Disparities in Government Contracting:

Small, local minority and women-owned businesses often have more difficulty getting traditional funding, hampering their ability to grow or, in the COVID-19 crisis, even stay open. Equally troubling, businesses owned by minorities have experienced deep and ongoing disparities in DC government contracting despite the demographics of the city. That’s why Kenyan established the Equity Impact Fund to provide investments in eligible businesses that experience barriers to accessing capital from traditional sources. The Fund provides financing to resident-owned, minority- or women-owned, socially or economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs. In addition, Kenyan passed a law that establishes an entirely new classification for businesses, equity impact enterprises, that are owned by an individual who is, or a majority number of individuals who are, economically disadvantaged or have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias. The law also unbundles large, complex contracts so that qualified small businesses can compete for subcontracts. In his work as an At-Large Councilmember, Kenyan will continue to look for measures that ensure that District government contracts are awarded fairly and equitably. 

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