Janisse Rosario Schoepp, our Vice President of Operations and Strategy, and Ines Hernandez, Senior Vice President of Citi Community Investing and Development (and an HFSF board member) co-authored the below op-ed about our efforts to create the South Florida Anchor Alliance. On September 2, the Alliance officially hosts its first-ever virtual forum to connect with hundreds of small and minority-owned businesses on ways they can get back to business by working with regional anchor institutions.

South Florida is not new to enduring disasters. We have seen our share — from hurricanes Andrew to Irma to Wilma. Time and again, we have risen to the challenge to stabilize and revive our communities.

But now, we are fighting to weather the most unexpected storm: COVID-19.

The coronavirus crisis has brought our region, and the world, to an economic standstill. Most troubling, the economic crisis has disproportionately hurt businesses owned by people of color and women. A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that between February and April, the pandemic shuttered nearly half of small Black-owned businesses nationwide. It also found that in that same time period, the number of Latino businesses decreased by 32 percent, and women-owned businesses were down by 25 percent. Last year, before the coronavirus crisis, a study by the Miami Urban Future Initiative at Florida International University (FIU) named the city of Miami the second most unequal city in the United States. The crisis is likely to deepen this inequity.

Businesses owned by people of color and women are pivotal to the vibrancy of South Florida. More than one in three Miami-Dade business owners is Black, Hispanic or a woman, according to FIU. In Broward, 52 percent of businesses are minority-owned, according to Census data. To ensure that South Florida’s economy can recover from the pandemic, we must preserve these businesses and jobs. Each and every one of our organizations and communities is at stake. But as stark as that sounds, we remain hopeful.

Just like after Hurricane Andrew, when our community banded together to rebuild, leaders across local government, universities and healthcare institutions — large organizations that act as “anchors” to the local economy — are rising to meet the challenge. More than 20 institutions, which spend billions of dollars annually in procurement, joined forces last year to create the South Florida Anchor Alliance. Convened by the Health Foundation of South Florida and supported by Citi, our aim is to create an inclusive, fair and thriving economy. The Alliance will do this by: 1) increasing the amount of money spent each year by participating institutions that goes to local small businesses, especially those that are minority-owned; and 2) creating more quality jobs for South Florida residents.

Read the entire op-ed at the Miami Herald here.