Minority business owners are being encouraged to apply for government stimulus checks as soon as Congress approves them, and President Biden is vowing to simplify the process to make it easier to apply.
As the owner of a drive-thru barbecue restaurant on Fort Worth's east side, Big Boyz Pit Smoked BBQ & More, T.J. Ragster has managed to keep chopping beef and stay open during the pandemic.
"Yeah, support the employees, keep the business up and rolling,” he said.
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He has four employees on the payroll.
But when it came time to apply for government stimulus checks the last go-around, Ragster never did.
"Didn't know what to expect from it so I didn't do it,” he said.
Ragster was hardly alone.
The Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce says they tried to get the message out and were frustrated by the response.
"We went to almost 150 churches over one weekend giving fliers to these preachers, saying, 'announce this in your Sunday service,” said Bob Ray Sanders, the chamber’s communications director.
Out of thousands of Black business owners in Fort Worth, only about 200 got grants, Sanders said.
"What we realized very quickly was Black businesses number one didn't believe the hype,” he said. “They thought this was another front, another 'talk and no show.'"
In a video just posted on the new administration's Twitter account, President Biden explained why he plans to focus on minority small business owners, including Blacks, Hispanics and women, and simplify the process.
"Think of the mom and pop owner with a couple of employees who can't pick up the phone and call a banker, who doesn't have a lawyer, an accountant, to help them through the complicated process,” Biden said.
Ragster said he understands why so many small business owners like himself never even tried to sign up last time.
"I believe there's a historical distrust and some African Americans feel like they can't trust the government,” he said. “But to me in my thinking, all they can say is yes or no."
But now, with another round of checks in the works, Ragster says he plans to apply this time.
"Absolutely. Without fail,” he said.
It’s unclear when Congress may pass the new stimulus checks, which could include $1,400 checks for most Americans, but some observers predict it will be at least next month.