WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and U.S. Representatives Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) introduced the Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act to encourage new business and job creation in underserved communities through a competitive fellowship for entrepreneurs. With a six-year investment of $330 million, the bill will identify talented entrepreneurs through a national competition and directly support the creation of 320 new businesses each year.

During this crisis, small businesses continue to struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels, with hundreds of thousands of businesses permanently closed and even more jobs lost. As Congress works to revive Main Streets across the country, this bill would allow a fresh start for capable entrepreneurs set back by the pandemic, or those with a plan to start their first business during the recovery. 

Even before the public health crisis, entrepreneurs faced substantial barriers to entry. The majority of young entrepreneurs have limited access to capital; and this problem is worse for minorities, who are more likely to be denied loans, more likely to receive lower loan amounts when they do receive loans and pay higher interest rates than their white peers. As noted by Lamell McMorris, Chicago Entrepreneur, and J.D. LaRock, President of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act can help address these barriers and could utilize capitalism to create an inclusive and equitable economy.  These barriers to entry are also stark in low-income areas, where there are proportionally fewer self-employed workers and small businesses.

“The United States lost 9.9 million jobs last year, nearly 1 million more than were lost during the Great Recession,” said Senator Coons. “New businesses are the biggest driver of job growth in America, accounting for nearly one-third of total job creation annually. Distressed regions are most in need of innovative ideas and entrepreneurs willing to act on them. We need a broad range of bold new approaches to recover the entrepreneurial spirit of America and empower aspiring entrepreneurs, especially in distressed communities. The Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps should be part of this effort.”

“As a former small business owner, I know how daunting it can be to start a business from scratch,” said Senator Scott. “But I also know the incredible impact small businesses can have on overlooked communities across our nation. As we emerge from the pandemic and work on commonsense legislation to rebuild our economy, we must focus on giving every entrepreneur the ability to make their American Dream a reality.”

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and make our neighborhoods special places to live, and that’s why they are a priority for me,” said Representative Crow. “Our community is filled with talented and resourceful entrepreneurs – we just need to provide them with support. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation gives these entrepreneurs the tools they need to build and grow businesses in our hardest hit communities.”  

“It’s critical now more than ever our country identifies and uplifts the next generation of entrepreneurs—including those in my home state of Ohio,” said Representative Balderson. “The skills and talent these individuals bring to the table will help fuel America’s economic recovery. We just need to ensure they have the right resources at their disposal.”

Rick Wade, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Equality of Opportunity Initiative, applauded the introduction of the Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act. “Entrepreneurship is a path towards prosperity in America and can help close the economic divide. We know that Black Americans are traditionally underrepresented among entrepreneurs and are less likely than white Americans to launch businesses. This legislation lowers barriers to entrepreneurship for minorities who have historically struggled to access capital and to benefit from supportive networks. Fellowships that inspire entrepreneurship and spark sustainable economic growth in distressed regions of our country are critical to ensuring Equality of Opportunity for all Americans.”

The United States has national fellowships to attract the next generation of talent to public schools, international development work, and public service. Now, with nearly 75% of small businesses experiencing a negative impact from COVID-19 for the last 10 months, a clear need exists for thoughtful investment in America’s entrepreneurial talent, in order to ensure an equitable recovery.

The Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act seeks to rebuild Main Street and will:

  • Create a competitive fellowship program. A selection committee of 12 industry experts will review applications and select 320 entrepreneur fellows annually, from diverse backgrounds, to start both traditional and high growth-potential businesses in distressed, low-income census tracts. The program will also set forth a framework to expand the number of fellows selected annually for greater impact.
  • Provide health benefits, living expenses, and student loan support. Fellows will receive a $120,000 two-year stipend for living and basic startup expenses, health care, and interest-free federal student loan deferral for two years.
  • Provide mentorship and networking opportunities. Fellows will receive immersive training, be matched with a local business mentor, and access support from an advisory board of CEOs and venture capitalists.
  • Partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) Small Business Development program. This SBA program currently helps socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to government contracting. Through this program, fellows will be provided a fast track to apply for 8(a) certification, and fellows with 8(a) eligible businesses will be matched with mentors via the 8(a) Mentor Protégé program.
  • Provide access to capital. Fellows will connect with investors and SBA-backed lenders and receive fast-track access to credit. A $30 million fund will encourage equity investment in corps members’ businesses.
  • Be available to transitioning business owners, new entrepreneurs, and previous business owners who have lost their business due to the public health crisis, but currently lack the resources or capital to start another venture. 

A full summary of the bill is available here.

This legislation is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Prosperity Now, National Action Network, Center for American Entrepreneurship, Opportunity Finance Network, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber, the SCORE Foundation, Young Invincibles, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Small Business for America’s Future, the Small Business Majority, BUILD.org, NextGen Chamber of Commerce, Engine, National Venture Capital Association, the Economic Innovation Group, Association of Small Business Development Centers, National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders, the United Way of Delaware, the WRK Group, and Connect DE.