Biden-Harris administration launches landmark partnership with Divine Nine to address wealth gap

The joint effort between the Small Business Administration (SBA) and National Pan-Hellenic Council will promote financial literacy, outreach, and capital access opportunities.

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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced on Tuesday a landmark partnership with the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) — a collective of the nation’s historically Black fraternities and sororities — aimed to address the widening wealth gap.

SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum (SAM) alongside Reuben A. Shelton III, Esq, President of the NPHC, and spoke about the finer points of the partnership.

SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum (SAM) alongside Reuben A. Shelton III, Esq, President of the NPHC, and spoke about the finer points of the partnership. (Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Williams, SBA)

“This historic alliance between the SBA and the NPHC—the first of its kind for a government agency—will bring SBA’s most valuable small business resources into reach for many small businesses and entrepreneurs, furthering President Biden’s commitment to build equity and close historic wealth gaps that have held back America’s Black entrepreneurs, small business owners and their families and communities for generations,” said Administrator Guzman.

“Over the past 18 months, the SBA has made incredible progress reaching more of America’s smallest businesses, delivering vital resources and support to business owners and entrepreneurs who have been historically underserved and overlooked—the same people and communities hit hardest by the COVID pandemic.

Guzman added that the SBA’s working alongside the Divine Nine will provide “even greater reach” for the agency’s services, including “bringing new engagement, access to networks, financial literacy, technical training and capital readiness so every aspiring entrepreneur can realize their American Dream of owning a successful business.”

SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum (SAM) alongside Reuben A. Shelton III, Esq, President of the NPHC, and spoke about the finer points of the partnership. (Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Williams, SBA)

As seen in a FEDS Note report from the Federal Reserve System from October 2021, Black, Hispanic and Latino households earn just around half of what their white counterparts earn and own roughly 15 to 20 percent of net wealth. These Black and brown communities also face barriers such as lack of inheritances, access to savings, and other financial maladies. The partnership will do its part in shifting tides toward evening the field. 

The SBA and NPHC, often referred to as the Divine Nine, will fashion the collaborative effort under the aegis of the Biden-Harris administration’s push for fostering equity from the federal government level down to the American public. Closing the wealth gap, especially among underserved communities, will be the larger focus of the partnership, while the SBA will use its influence to reach out to members of the community and arm Black business owners with tools, resources, and support in order to create pathways to capital, government contracts, and general guidance. 

“The National Pan Hellenic Council and its affiliate organizations are very excited about this opportunity with the U.S. Small Business Administration. This collaboration will give NPHC members critical access to information that will promote small business growth and create jobs in all sectors of our economy,” Shelton offered in a supporting statement to Administrator Guzman’s announcement.

The NPHC reports that it retains membership of over 2.5 million individuals across the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities, with members hailing from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other universities across the nation. Many NPHC members are also community champions, heads of business, educators, entrepreneurs, and faith leaders who seek to elevate the station of those who require assistance.

(Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Williams, SBA)

The NPHC is comprised of: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.

The partnership is an extension of the SBA Equity Action Plan, directly influenced by the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda. The SBA has also expanded and reformed its Community Advantage (CA) Pilot loan program to give low-income borrowers an opportunity to access capital to start or grow their businesses. The reforms are supplanted by the American Rescue Plan’s $100 million Community Navigators program.

The SBA has also increased its number of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), boosting the count to 146 — the largest in the agency’s history. This raises the profiles of WBCs at HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

The list of WBCs found across HBCU campuses will now feature:

Miles College, Fairfield, Alabama

Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia

Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland

Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi

Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi

Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina

Winston-Salem State University, Winston Salem, North Carolina

Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina

Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia

Learn more about SBA funding opportunities here.

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