Workforce Grants to Support Black, Latine, and Native American-Owned Small Businesses

June 18, 2024

With the help of Community Reinvestment Fund dollars from the Department of Commerce, WorkForce Central is working with local Black, Latine, and Native American-owned businesses to address racial, social, and economic disparities within our local communities.

This initiative was advocated by and for these communities and aims to support businesses in a variety of ways, including paid training, upskilling/reskilling, equipment purchases, and many other opportunities. WorkForce Central is working with a variety of organizations in Pierce County, including Mi Centro and the Black Collective to support this work.

“Supporting small businesses owned by Black, Latine, and Native American individuals is crucial for fostering economic empowerment and resilience within historically marginalized communities and ensuring we grow quality jobs in our region,” said Samuel Bradshaw, Director of Business Solutions. “By providing support to these entrepreneurs, we can create opportunities for growth, innovation, and prosperity that benefit not only individual businesses but also the broader community.”

This Spring, WorkForce Central launched two areas of focus for these small businesses to apply for grants, administered in collaboration with community partners and stakeholders, aimed to strengthen relationships with our local Black, Latine, and Native American small businesses to strengthen the local economy  and create local, quality jobs in Pierce County.

Through Worker Training Grants, funding can be used to provide worker training such as short-term (6-month period or shorter) certifications and other employee development that reduces the cost of training employees, supports worker retention, and provides upskill or advancement opportunities for current employees.

Grants can also be used to purchase assets such as furniture, equipment, machinery, or software that produces long-term benefits by increasing revenue, increasing business value, and/or improving operations, all of which contribute to the growth of quality job opportunities in our region.  These grants are to be utilized for new asset purchases, and funds will are distributed directly to vendors.  Funds cannot be used for working capital, land and building acquisition, or relieving existing debt.

To be eligible, a business must have fewer than 50 employees and located in Pierce County. The proposed projects must support worker development, skill enhancement, business growth, and economic mobility. The funds are prioritized for workforce development activities and self-attested Black, Latine, and Native American business owners and operators and their employees to address systemic barriers to economic vitality.

Starting this summer, we will be offering New Employee Wage Reimbursement, where funding can be used to support 75% of a new employee’s wages up to $5,000 per month for a maximum of three months while a business makes plans to bring that employee on permanently.

Wage Reimbursement Grants offer employers the opportunity to bring on new staff they otherwise might not have been able to hire, or who still require some level of training and skill development to ensure readiness of the job.

This work is part of a larger state-wide investment of $200 million through the Department of Commerce’s Community Reinvestment Act. The funding was approved by the state Legislature in 2022 with the directive to invest the funds in four program areas: economic development, civil and criminal legal assistance, community-based violence intervention and prevention services, and reentry services. In partnership with the WA Office of Equity, Commerce worked with communities across the state to develop a Community Reinvestment Plan laying out recommendations for how these funds will be invested over the next biennium (July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2025).

For more information about Workforce Central’s Small Business Grants, visit our Small Business Grants webpage.

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