Black Business Owners Struggling From COVID Pandemic Have Message of Hope: ‘Don't Give Up … There Will Be a Turnaround'

Black-owned businesses in the Inland Empire are hard hit partly because many are in retail such as restaurants and barber shops.

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Talk to the husband and wife owners of the Barber Palace and C's Cuts and Creations and they’ll tell you how devastating the pandemic has been on them.

"We lost 90 percent of our barbers," said Seleaina Thomas-Cooper, the co-owner of the Barber Palace. "We just have two or three barbers left."

Added husband Clarence: "I was feeling like, 'How are we going to pay our bills?'"

The couple are Navy veterans who are barely surviving because they say Seleaina is also working as a nurse practitioner.

"I'm paying the bills for both barber shops and plus our home bills," Seleaina said.

Many black business owners are being especially impacted by the pandemic, according to Pepi Jackson, the president and CEO of the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce.

"Anytime you have a national emergency generally the African American community and the minority community is going to be disproportionately affected," Jackson said.

That's because many Black businesses are in retail -- restaurants and barber shops, industries hard hit by COVID-19 shutdowns, he said.

They often cater specifically to black communities, he added.

"Minority businesses are inclined to be more accessible to other monitories simply because of the neighborhood that they open up in," he said.

As small businesses continue to struggle, Inland Empire economist John Husing says hope may be on the horizon with president Joe Biden's new COVID-19 stimulus package.

"So it would be crucial for that to pass to help those communities on the income side and through that help those businesses that have been able to survive," he said.

The Coopers said one of the keys to surviving is to think positively.

"Don't give up because there will be a turnaround," Clarence said.

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