Black and Brown communities and low-income communities continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to safe and affordable small business financing options

For Immediate Release: 
January 25, 2024

Contact: 
Olivia Goethals
olivia@sgstrategies.com | (309) 502-1991

EAST ST. LOUIS – Yesterday, Illinois State Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) and Woodstock Institute invited small businesses to come together for a town hall to share their experiences in navigating the challenges of the post-pandemic economic environment. Discussions included access to credit, predatory lending, and SB 2234–the Small Business Truth in Lending Act

Nearly 40 members of the community attended, including Terrance Taylor of Community Development Sustainable Solutions, a nonprofit focused on community development in East St. Louis: “Our lights went out at home, but the business stayed afloat.” Mr. Taylor went on to say, “The people of East St. Louis need to get more involved. If we unify, we win.”

Black and Brown communities and low-income communities continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to safe and affordable small business financing options. Woodstock Institute’s Patterns of Disparity: Small Business Lending in Illinois found that businesses located in low-to-moderate income (LMI) census tracts received only 19.3% of bank loans under $100,000 despite making up 27.0% of all Illinois businesses [over a three-year period]. Making up this deficit would require 46,648 more loans totalling $618 million. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and it’s important their voices are heard,” said Senator Belt (D-Swansea). “By working together, we can explore solutions that will contribute to the continued success of these businesses.”

Research shows that small businesses in Black, Brown, and lower income communities disproportionately turn to online “fintech” lenders for financing,” said Brent Adams, Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Woodstock Institute. “These nonbank lenders are essentially unregulated, and they charge rates as high as payday lenders. What’s worse is small businesses are not even entitled to know a loan’s interest rate before signing on the dotted line.” 

“Access to responsible capital is a top concern for small business owners, which is why our state must do more to ensure our entrepreneurs have the protections they need when seeking financing,” said Tasha Brown, Illinois Director, Small Business Majority. “We applaud Senator Christopher Belt for leading the way on this bill to promote stronger lending transparency, and allow individuals to make apples-to-apples comparisons when navigating financing products.”

Nonbank “fintech” (financial technology) lenders to small businesses, which are mostly online, are unregulated in Illinois, as in most other states. 

SB 2234 seeks to establish a regulatory framework in Illinois for “non bank” lenders to small businesses based on a Small Business Borrowers Bill of Rights (BBOR). The BBOR has six core principles, including the right to transparent pricing and terms (including the loan’s APR), the right to non-abusive products, the right to inclusive credit access, and the right to fair debt collection practices.

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Woodstock Institute advances economic and racial justice within financial systems through research and advocacy across Illinois and the United States. Among their areas of focus are predatory lending, access to banking, debt collection, and municipal fines and fees.