Relief Funds Like PPP Remain Elusive For Latina Business Owners

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By 2060, Latinas will make up 27 percent of women in the U.S. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the disproportionate impact on the Latinx community becomes more clear. While many parts of the Latina community are impacted, Latina business owners are facing unique barriers to keeping their businesses going through the pandemic. “We also have to keep thinking about long-term planning,” says Cristina Pacheco, owner of FRCE, LLC, a production and experience design company that ties social justice with civic engagement. “These initial government assistance opportunities are helpful, but most industries have a long road ahead to ‘normalcy.’ It’s definitely a time for creativity, but us women have always been inventive.”

According to a February 2020 Cal Matters report, Latinx small businesses in the U.S. employ three million workers and contribute $500 billion in sales to the U.S. economy. These contributions remain despite facing racist systems that have meant higher loan rates and lower wages. The report explains that denial of loans at major banks has led Latinos to borrow from small banks and when that fails, family and friends have provided seed money.

A March 2020 Stanford survey found that 86% of Latinx small business owners reported that their businesses had already suffered a negative impact from COVID-19. Additionally, 23% of Latinx small business owners had already applied to SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans and 33% of those surveyed stated that they needed more information in order to seek relief. While the federal government approved $650 billion in relief for small business owners under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), many small business owners are still waiting for their funds. A recent article stated that 90% of women and minority owned businesses missed out on PPP.

Three Latina business owners shared their experiences with the Luz Collective on applying for relief funds, demonstrating the various challenges to access the support necessary to keep their businesses going through this pandemic.

Laura Y. Gonzalez says she is one of the 90% to miss out on PPP even though she applied. Gonzalez, co-owner of A.N.R. Overhead Doors Inc. in Whittier, California, applied to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and PPP. While her business was approved for some funding from the EIDL, they were denied the PPP. “The PPP on the one hand was not smooth, it was rather frustrating and misleading,” says Gonzalez. “Both the EIDL and the PPP were promoted as readily available. The EIDL took only a few days to take applications via the SBA website. For the PPP you could only apply with your banking institution. Throughout the month of April banks were not taking applications from businesses who do not do their banking with them.”

Cristina Pacheco applied to both the EIDL and PPP. Her business was awarded some funds from both. She says that overall the process took about three weeks, but along the way she lacked information and clarity for both applications. “The rules are changing constantly and the burden of responsibility to prove loan forgiveness falls on us,” she explains. “I’ve found my network of colleagues the most helpful. We’ve shared articles with each other and stayed close about the progress of our loan requests. Also, there are a number of women-centered grants available. Apply for everything you can both from the government and private sources.”
Belinda De La Libertad, who owns A-Z Techs, an information technology firm, did receive some relief funding under the PPP and EIDL that will allow her to support her workers at least until June 30th. “I’m able to continue employing Latina heads of household, plus make sure we can cover recurring expenses so that my business credit remains in great shape after the crisis. For my employees, paying the rent and putting food on the table is what matters most.”

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Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

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Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.