The White House has criticized Republicans in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation over their opposition to legislation that has assisted Black-owned small businesses.
“While President Biden highlights historic investments from his Administration to support small business, including Black-owned businesses, extreme Republicans in Congress have repeatedly tried to dismantle the President’s small business agenda,” the White House said in a statement released Dec. 20.
Biden visited Milwaukee on Dec. 20 and spoke to the city’s Black Chamber of Commerce to highlight how his economic agenda, called “Bidenomics,” has helped to contribute to a boom in Black small businesses. In his speech, Biden spotlighted the work of Hero Plumbing, a Black-owned business based in the city that will take part in a project to replace lead water service lines.
The administration has set a target of replacing 100% of lead service lines within a decade and has prioritized areas like Milwaukee with large minority populations, which are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act set aside $15 billion for lead line replacement programs.
The law also made the Minority Business Development Agency a permanent part of the federal government and increased its annual budget from $42 million to $110 million. Previously, the agency was required to receive authorization each year from Congress. The agency’s purpose is to advocate for and help to develop minority-owned businesses.
The White House statement specifically singled out Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and his opposition to the infrastructure law.
“This is just the first step in the Democrats’ plan to pass their $5 trillion-plus radical tax-and-spend agenda, and I simply couldn’t help facilitate it,” Johnson said in an August 2021 statement voicing his opposition to the bill.
All of the Republican House members from Wisconsin voted against the bill, which received support from Wisconsin Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
The passage of the law was praised at the time by the U.S. Black Chambers, an organization focused on developing Black businesses.
“The passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represents a renewed and unprecedented commitment to the Black community writ large,” Ron Busby, the group’s president and CEO, said in a Nov. 2021 statement. “We at the U.S. Black Chambers welcome this investment in America’s Black communities.”
The White House also made note of unified Republican opposition to the American Rescue Plan, which provided federal support to small businesses recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 study by the Federal Reserve showed that Black-owned businesses suffered more from the negative economic effects of the pandemic than white-owned companies.
“This is not COVID relief – it is a massive debt burden that further mortgages our children’s future,” Johnson said in a statement to Wausau CBS affiliate WSAW in 2021 after he voted against the American Rescue Plan. Baldwin released a statement in March 2021 describing the plan as “the support Wisconsin needs right now to help us get past this public health crisis and move our economy forward.”
Federal support for Black-owned businesses has significantly increased since Biden took office.The Small Business Administration said in a November release that it had made 4,700 loans to Black-owned businesses in the 2023 fiscal year. The administration said that the total number of loans and dollars loaned to those businesses had more than doubled under Biden.