Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new plan for small businesses, released exclusively to MTV News on Wednesday (February 19), pledges to increase funding for entrepreneurs, get rid of the red tape holding them back, tackle student loan debt, and fight the climate crisis — and focus on aiding women and people of color.
Starting your own business is hard — especially for people of color and women – but that hasn’t stopped 66 percent of millennials from saying they want to start their own business and Gen Z from being even more entrepreneurial than that. Young people are more likely to work non-traditional jobs like working for rideshare companies, tutoring, and freelancing in tech and media, but the number of people under 30 who own their own businesses keeps falling, because they often feel like they don’t have the support necessary to take the plunge into owning a business.
“A lot of politicians like to praise entrepreneurs and small businesses, but their actions show they are pro-big business,” Sen. Warren told MTV News in a statement. “And today, being pro big-business means, by and large, being pro-big businesses run by white men.”
Partially, the struggle of entrepreneurs of color is due to overwhelming student loan debt, which in 2019, reached $1.56 trillion, an astronomical number that has held countless young people back — and affects Black students more than any other racial or ethnic group. While Black and Latinx women are starting their own businesses at higher rates than their white counterparts, doing so often requires money, time, and a network that will help you along the way.
In her new plan, Warren lays out a roadmap for helping small businesses — especially businesses owned by marginalized people — get a fair chance at success. Her plan pulls from and works in tandem with her other, previously-announced policies; she cites her proposal to regulate tech in an effort to help small businesses succeed online, and notes that her plan for affordable housing will combat the rising cost of living that holds many entrepreneurs back. Warren’s plans will ensure that small business owners and entrepreneurs will have health insurance — and will lessen the burden of them having to provide it to their employees early on — through her Medicare for All plan.
And she draws on her previous promise to help young people with their student debt, but her new plan doesn’t stop at college education. It’ll also invest $800 billion in K-12 schools and provide universal child care, giving children the education they need early on to develop the talent that small businesses rely on — and provide support for parents who want to start their own businesses in the here and now.
Other Democratic presidential candidates are doing their part to stop the spread of student loan debt: Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to cancel all student loan debt; former Vice President Joe Biden’s education reform plan will revamp the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program so that public school teachers, government employees and those who work for certain non-profit organizations can receive support; former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s plan advocates for Pell grants and partnerships to lower the cost of tuition; Sen. Amy Klobuchar will make community college free, and supports refinancing existing student loans for lower rates.
But even if student debt was wiped from the U.S. education system, there are still compounding issues facing young entrepreneurs and small business owners, particularly young women and people of color. People of color start their businesses with less money than their white peers; lack the same access to capital, resources, and markets as their white peers and and have less access to the informal business training and networks that white people do.
“When I am president, we will usher in the next generation of entrepreneurs with big dreams and level the playing field for small businesses — instead of sucking up to the big businesses that can hire armies of lobbyists and hand out maximum campaign contributions,” Sen. Warren said.
Her plan includes plenty of monetary stipulations to help level that playing field: She plans to create a Small Business Equity Fund that will allocate $7 billion in funding to provide grants to minority entrepreneurs — a move, she argues, that could generate and support 1.1 million jobs. She would also pledge half a billion dollars a year over the next decade to entrepreneurs who are building sustainable farm and food systems, including by funding food hubs, distribution centers, and points-of-sale that will boost the economy and health of rural and small town communities. Her plan will also strengthen Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that invest in underserved areas, and she plans to overhaul worker training programs by scaling up apprenticeships tenfold with a $20 billion commitment over the next ten years, invest in new training programs, and create a first-of-its-kind federal grant program that can remove some of the regulatory roadblocks that small businesses face.
The monetary leanings of her plan also lend themselves to fighting the climate crisis: Her plan includes support for the Green New Deal, which would invest $10.7 trillion into clean energy. This, she says, will not only create economic growth and create more than 10.6 million jobs, but will “create the market conditions to help small businesses and green entrepreneurs across a range of industries.” She also pledges to invest $400 billion over ten years to clean
Her plan also includes establishing a new Green Bank that will invest $1 trillion in funding over 30 years into small businesses and entrepreneurs who wouldn't otherwise qualify for traditional venture style investments — the only catch is that these entrepreneurs must be “on the front lines of the climate crisis,” which 83 percent of people aged 18-34 say is important to them as a political issue.
“It will take green entrepreneurs and small businesses from every corner of this country working together to rebuild our economy from the bottom up,” Warren’s plan reads. “As President, I’ll make sure our government works not just for the big businesses with big money to spend on lobbyists and lawyers, but for entrepreneurs and small business owners with big dreams — who put their own sweat and hard work and savings on the line for the satisfaction of being their own boss and turning their ideas into reality.”