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RICHEY NICHOLAS: An Update to James Carville’s 1992 Campaign Advice

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That was James Carville’s advice to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Thirty years later, the economy is again a top concern of voters.   However, this time the advice from the small-business community is, “It’s the economy and democracy, stupid.”

Small businesses are raising their voices about protecting democracy. They know that a strong democracy is crucial for a vibrant entrepreneurial economy. The two go hand in hand. Polls show that businesses, small and not so small, are concerned about the state of our nation’s economy and they want Congress to act.

Small businesses thrive when entrepreneurs know that their investment of time and money can lead to successful, profitable businesses for themselves, their families and their communities.

This confidence drops when our democracy is threatened to be replaced by an autocracy, one-party rule, in which government leaders are no longer chosen in free and fair elections. Under autocratic governments in which leaders are not concerned about the opinions of voters, only the politically well-connected are favored by government policies, consumers reduce spending, not all entrepreneurs have access to the marketplace, and successful businesses are in jeopardy of being shut down or taken over by big campaign supporters of those in office. Free market capitalism dies.

After the 2020 election through Jan. 6, 2021, we now know that there was a concerted effort to deny the will of the voters. The congressional hearings have exposed the anti-democracy supporters among us. Had they been successful, America would have been on the path to an autocracy that small-business owners fear.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of senators understood that Congress needed to protect democracy by reforming the ambiguous 1887 law regarding the federal role in certifying the president and vice president based on state elections. These nine Republicans and seven Democrats have co-sponsored a bill to update and improve the 135-year-old law.

The bill, “Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act,” would provide clear instructions for how states should submit their electors to Congress and how Congress should process and certify the election results every four years.

This bill is not perfect. More needs to be done to ensure that bad state actors do not replace the will of the voters with their own favored candidates. However, the bill is a vast improvement over the current law.

Business for Democracy, a campaign of the American Sustainable Business Network, has launched seven state collaboratives, with more on the way, to use the trusted voice of small businesses to elevate the issue of protecting democracy so that it will be of concern to voters this November.

These state Business for Democracy collaboratives are asking their senators to support the Electoral Count Reform Act. In addition, they are also calling for their states’ congressional candidates to commit to voting next year for two other pieces of legislation, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

These voting reform measures make up the three-legged stool needed to hold up our democracy.

The Electoral Count Reform Act can and should pass this year so that we never have another overt or covert effort to deny the will of the voters as to who will be their president and vice president.

Members of Congress who fail to support this act and congressional candidates who refuse to support the other two bills to protect democracy need to be reminded by voters, “It’s the economy and democracy, stupid.” Then vote accordingly.

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Comcast Expands Access to its RISE Small Business Grant Program

Comcast is reaching out a helping hand to minority-owned small businesses. The technology and communications giant plan to award an additional $1 million in grants and support to minority-owned small businesses as a part of its Comcast RISE initiative. The recent announcement comes two years after Comcast started the program.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, governments shut down many small businesses with dire results. Some went under while others struggled to survive.

“As we continue to rebuild from the effects of the pandemic, small businesses still need our support,” said Dennis Matthew,  Comcast regional senior vice president.

The National Institute of Health reported that in the first five months of the pandemic, small businesses declined by 22 percent, with 3.3 million total small businesses affected. According to the NIH, African-American-owned small businesses declined by 41 percent, Latino-owned businesses declined by 32  percent, and Asian-owned firms by 26 percent.  Female-owned companies are also suffering. The report states that female-owned business activity declined by 25 percent during the same period.

In 2020, Comcast established the Comcast RISE initiative, which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment.” The program focuses on businesses owned by people of color, including Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans.

Comcast originally started the initiative so that financial and technological resources were more accessible to small businesses that needed help in the wake of the pandemic. The program aims to assist underrepresented business owners in achieving long-term sustainability. The RISE program helps them access various financial resources, business support services, and tools necessary to succeed and provides continued support to recipients.

Building on the program’s success, Comcast announced its plans last November to expand its eligibility requirements to all female-owned businesses. Now female business owners will qualify to receive grants and assistance through the Comcast RISE program. Comcast believes that this change in the eligibility requirements will address social inequities and help level the playing field for businesswomen trying to obtain access to resources. The expansion will help female business owners become more successful.

Through its partnership with Ureeka, a website company, the Comcast RISE program has various options for helping grant recipients. Ureeka is a third-party organization that, according to Jen Bilotta, the regional vice president of communications for Comcast in Philadelphia, helps all RISE recipients. Service packages include educational opportunities and mentoring, marketing and advertising through various commercial media channels, technology tools such as digital hardware and business software, and monthly newsletters providing small business owners with information to help businesses succeed.

“In 2021, I was sent a link to apply to the Comcast RISE grant,” said Christina Faith, owner of Creative Thought Media in Philadelphia.  “As a Black entrepreneur, grants often require you to jump through hoops to apply. It was refreshing to receive the funding and resources to support our business. I love that Comcast RISE continued to support us after the resources and grants were deployed. They continually check in to see how we are doing and what other support is needed.”

Since it began, Comcast RISE has awarded grants to 9,500 businesses nationwide, 700 of which were Philadelphia-based small businesses. In 2021, one hundred qualifying Delaware Valley businesses received $1 million in grants. The Comcast RISE initiative has awarded over $16 million in grants and $75 million in marketing and technology support to small businesses nationwide. Comcast expects to help 13,000 more small businesses by the end of 2022.

“Comcast is extremely proud of the initiative’s progress and the businesses it has helped,” Bilotta added.

The program is currently accepting applications for service package grants. The deadline is October 14, 2022, if you are a minority small business owner interested in applying for a grant through the Comcast RISE initiative.


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