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Isabel Guzman is one of four Latinos chosen for President Joe Biden’s cabinet. Photo: Office of the California Governor
Isabel Guzman is one of four Latinos chosen for President Joe Biden’s cabinet. Photo: Office of the California Governor

Isabel Guzman is officially confirmed to lead the Small Business Administration

Guzman’s leadership will steer COVID-recovery by overseeing aid initiatives and the Paycheck Protection Program.

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President Joe Biden nominated Isabel Guzman to lead the Small Business Administration at a time when Latina representation was greatly needed. Three months later, she was confirmed by the Senate on March 16, putting her in charge of leading some of the most vital recovery efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Senate chamber approved Guzman’s nomination in an 81-17 vote, seeing relatively little opposition from GOP leaders.

Before her confirmation, Guzman served as 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 is replacing 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. 

Since the passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March 2020, the SBA has overseen the Payment Protection Program (PPE). 

So far, the program has given about $687 billion in forgivable loans, according to SBA data through March 7. About $165 billion in loans has gone out this year, reports CNBC.

The current window to apply for the aid expires at the end of the month, though there are bipartisan talks about extending the program for two months and giving the SBA an additional 30 days after the extension to go through applications.

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.

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.

Since June 2020, Black men have experienced the highest unemployment rate of any demographic group, according to a UCLA Latino study. 

In Feb. 2021, the category remained the highest at 10.2%, almost double that of white men (5.3%). 

Black women experienced the second highest unemployment rate, at 8.9%.

This is just one state.

The same study also found that federal COVID19 relief went largely to California's whiter, richer areas instead of the state’s most economically-vulnerable neighborhoods, raising questions about how the program handled the criteria for need and subsequent rollout. 

In her Senate confirmation hearing last month, Guzman noted that she is “committed to helping to support our nation’s small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

She added that she would work to improve equity in distributing small business, especially after studies and critics have said the government did not do enough to get aid to the smallest businesses and companies owned by women and people of color.

Upon Guzman’s confirmation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominated to lead Health and Human Services, remains the last Latino out of four nominations yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

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