News Briefs

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Goodbye WBEs
A disparity study published by Washington State Department of Transportation shows that enterprises owned by white women are no longer discriminated against, meaning they can no longer be included in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, as stipulated in U.S. Department of Transportation rules. The Washington agency has officially asked USDOT to remove white women-owned businesses from their list of minority firms. The National Black Chamber of Commerce notes that this has also happened in North Carolina and will happen in many other states. “The significance of this case is that the state of Washington is actually going through with the process. Lawsuits will follow,” says Harry Alford, the chamber’s president and CEO. He said the compromise to this is to put white women in their separate program, with separated goals from Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. “That would stop the “cannibalism” that began ever since white women entered the [DBE] program in 1987.” 

 
Mobile App for Blacks
Terrance Jackson, founder and CEO of StartUpTown, a non-profit seeking to develop wireless networks, is developing a mobile application that will rate products based on how well those products support Black employment. From the 1960s to today, the Black unemployment rate has been about two to two-and-a-half times that of whites, and it is likely that nearly one in five Black workers was unemployed at some point in 2013, Jackson says. Black women made up 12.5 percent of all female workers in June of 2009, yet accounted for over 42 percent of job losses for all women between June 2009 and June 2011. Black women’s unemployment rate increased 2.1 percent in the same period, three times the increase of the next highest unemployment rate (Black men). On average, only 2.58 percent of goods and services contracted out by Fortune 500 corporations are awarded to Black firms. StartUpTown is also planning to build a mobile phone network in a rural village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

House Divided
A joint study on recent trends in minority access to housing found radically different experiences among races, conducted by Zillow Inc., and the National Urban League, found that although Hispanics and Blacks make up 17 percent and 12 percent of the U.S. population, respectively, of represented only 5 percent and 3 percent of the conventional mortgage application pool. The study, “A House Divided: How Race Colors The Path To Homeownership,” shows Blacks experience the highest loan application denial rates. One in 4 Blacks will be denied their conventional loan application, as opposed to 1 in 10 whites. Disparities in homeownership rates persist: 73.9 percent of whites own a home, but the rate is 60.9 percent for Asians, 50.9 percent for Hispanics, and 46.5 percent for Blacks. The rise and subsequent fall of home values in the U.S. housing bubble disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic homeowners.

Microloans for Women
Wells Fargo invested $1 million in Grameen America — a microfinance organization dedicated to helping women who live in poverty build small businesses — to fund microloans to low-income women entrepreneurs in California and Texas. Wells Fargo’s investment will help Grameen America expand in the two states, and marks the company’s second such investment in Grameen America. Wells Fargo investments also  helped Grameen America expand operations in Charlotte, N.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. The bank offers retail savings accounts in select locations to Grameen America’s members, who are encouraged to make weekly savings deposits as part of the Grameen America program. The average size of a Grameen America microloan is $2,200. To date, Grameen America has disbursed more than $109 million in microloans to more than 19,000 women in New York, Omaha, Indianapolis, the Bay Area, Charlotte and Los Angeles. In addition to microloans, Grameen America offers members financial training, and savings and credit-building programs to build small businesses.

 
Carver in East Harlem
Carver Federal Savings Bank, the country’s largest African-American and Caribbean-American-operated bank, announced a $10,000 contribution to Union Settlement Association to help fund various programs, offer financial seminars to association employees and members, and coordinate employee volunteer opportunities. Founded in 1895, the association is the oldest and largest social services provider for residents of East Harlem, and one of the largest settlement houses in New York. It offers programs in education, health, job training, senior services, youth development, childcare, counseling and economic development. The Carver-Union Settlement Association partnership follows the bank’s opening of its newest branch a year ago in the East Harlem community.

Valuing Higher Education
A 2013 Houston Education Survey from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research found that African-Americans (at 90 percent) were the most likely to insist that success today requires education beyond high school, followed by Asians (at 85 percent) and Latinos (at 78 percent). Whites (at 64 percent) were the least inclined to say that postsecondary education is necessary for success in today’s economy. Moreover, 92 percent of all parents with school-aged children (regardless of ethnicity) said they hoped their child would be able, at a minimum, to graduate from college. Survey author Stephen Klineberg, Kinder Institute co-director and Rice professor of sociology says the survey discredits the belief that Blacks or Latinos do not value education as much as Anglos and Asians do. The educational disparities have much more to do with resources and income inequalities than with any presumed differences in aspirations or values, he says.