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Guzman, current director of California's Office of the Small Business Advocate, previously served as deputy chief of staff for the SBA in Obama’s admin. Photo: Office of California’s Governor
Guzman, current director of California's Office of the Small Business Advocate, previously served as deputy chief of staff for the SBA in Obama’s admin. Photo: Office of California’s Governor

Biden picks Isabel Guzman for Small Business Administration, fulfilling a promise to Latinos

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Isabel Guzman, a Latina, to lead the SBA at a time when BIPOC businesses have suffered the most from COVID-19.  

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It was one of his many promises.

President-elect Joe Biden promised to have an administration that is representative of the diversity within the United States. He’s made historic decisions so far, including the first-ever Latino as Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Rep. Deb Haaland as the first Native American Secretary of the Interior. 

But as weeks passed and cabinet positions dwindled, things were looking grim for Latino representation. Biden has already nominated Mayorkas for the DHS, Xavier Becerra for Health and Human Services, and Miguel Cardona for Education Secretary — whose nomination was also historic as the first Latino to serve in the position. 

In previous administrations, the highest number of Latinos to serve in Cabinet-level positions was four, and with just weeks left before inauguration day, the worry was that there would not be a single Latina in Biden’s cabinet.

In response, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) ramped up efforts to increase Latino representation, specifically raising awareness that there was yet to be a Latina selected for a role.

It had more to do with representation’s sake. 

Latina women, most prominently seen in Arizona, are behind the mobilization of voters that led to the state flipping blue. It wasn’t the deciding factor in Biden’s win, but it was definitely a major turnaround.

The Hispanic Caucus also spoke to Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala Harris on the outstanding issue in mid-December, and nearly a month later, Biden announced his selection of Isabel Guzman for the top job at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“@Hispanic Caucus made it a top priority for a Latina to serve in the Cabinet. We applaud the appointment of Isabel Guzman as Small Business Administrator. Her experience as a small business entrepreneur & previous work at SBA will be critical in helping small businesses succeed.” Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Raul Ruiz wrote in a briefing. 

Guzman is currently the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, a position she’s held since 2019. A former deputy chief of staff at the SBA during the Obama administration, she will replace Jovita Carranza as administrator. 

Carranza led the SBA through COVID-19, and the popular, yet controversial roll-out of the Paycheck Protection Program, which helped give 5 million U.S. small businesses— some, far from small — over $500 billion in aid.

With the pandemic yet to be mitigated, there will still be much to do from where Carranza leaves off. 

Guzman will be tasked with running an agency that has become increasingly vital for the health and wellness of the nation's millions of small businesses, and BIPOC businesses have been hit particularly hard.

A new report released Jan. 8 by the University of California, Los Angeles Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA Latino) laid-out the racial factors in December 2020 job losses.

Latino employment tanked by 252,000 jobs, Black employment dropped by 26,000 jobs, and Asian employment did as well, by 40,000 jobs. 

By contrast, there was an increase of 38,000 white jobs. 

“Workers of color bore the brunt of this loss,” wrote UCLA Latino. 

Even before the pandemic, BIPOC small businesses did not fare as well.

In 2019, only 10% of funding from the SBA’s major lending programs went to Black, Latino, and Indigenous entrepreneurs combined. 

A recent “secret shopper” study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition also found that when Black small business applicants contacted a bank, nearly half the time, they were given inferior treatment to white applicants with similar credit. 

During the pandemic, more than 26% of Black, 19% of Latino, and 21% of Asian-owned businesses have closed, according to further research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Biden released a plan to address such issues in his alliterative “Build Back Better” initiative, which places emphasis on aiding BIPOC-owned businesses.

But it will ultimately be up to Guzman to fight the unequal job crisis, the most difficult economic challenge in recent history, by presenting new ideas via the SBA that reflect the struggle that small BIPOC businesses have disproportionately endured.

“We have to build our economy back better from this pandemic,” wrote Guzman in response to her nomination. “Small businesses and their employees will be core to our recovery and I will work around the clock to help them re-open and thrive.”

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