The Commerce Department yesterday announced a program to provide up to $12.2 million in federal money for projects that "substantially benefit minority firms, individuals or neighborhoods."
Robert Hall, assistant secretary for economic development, said yesterday the money set aside next fiscal year to help stimulate minority business and employment growth is more than a 50 percent increase over the funds used by the agency this year in scattered minority economic development projects. The program will be administered by the Economic Development Administration.
Hall said the increased funding "is not specifically new money." The additional money was already in the Commerce Department budget for fiscal 1979. The increase represents the department's desire to commit more funds to "a more specific program" to help minority economic development, Hall said
"We are going to give better targeted assistance," he said. "Before, we were doing things by happenstance. Now, we're adding structure," Hall said.
The commerce program will have three basic components:
Financial assistance in the form of grants, loans and procurement arrangements and technical assistance to business firms owned by minority group members.
Assistance to local governments, community organizations and businesses involved in programs "to significantly benefit minority firms, neighborhoods or individuals."
Stringent program requirements for EDA grants or loans to help program participants "increase their efforts to provide employment for minority group members and to foster minority business development."
Hall said the EDA program will not conflict with or replace minority business aid programs administered by the Commerce Department's much-critized Office of Minority Business Enterprise. Nor, he said, will it adversely affect similar Small Business Administration projects, many of which have also come under attack.
"We expect to complement those programs in some ways," Hall said.
Under the program, EDA expects to award up to $2.23 million in planning grants to local governments with 20 to 30 percent minority group populations.
Grants will also be awarded to cities and urban counties with less than 20 percent minority populations if the economic development problems of the area are primarily centered in the minority community. "A special case would have to be made" for a local government whose minority population is less than 15 percent, the EDA said in its program outline.
The "30 percent rule" covers technical assistance, long-term economic development, business loans and loans guarantee aspects of the EDA program.
For example, white-owned firms that "save" or create 50 or more jobs, and that give at least 30 percent of those jobs to minorities, would be eligible to receive a share of the up to $22.5 million in loans and loan guarantees from the EDA program.
The program also includes a "special effort" to aid American Indian community and economic development. Up to $26.1 million in various types of grants is expected to be awarded by the agency to Indian tribes and Alaskan native villages within the next fiscal year.