Concrete ways to help bridge the wealth gap – Crain’s Chicago Business

concrete-ways-to-help-bridge-the-wealth-gap-–-crain’s-chicago-business

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The wealth gap—better described as a chasm—is well documented. We asked two local executives for concrete suggestions about how businesspeople and government can help bridge it.

Jessica Droste Yagan, who notes that Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America with some of the most devastating inequalities in access to education, health care and transportation, is CEO of Impact Engine. Impact Engine is a Chicago-based venture-capital and private-equity firm investing in companies driving positive impacts in education, economic empowerment, health and environmental sustainability. Here are her ideas:

    From Ronald E. Damper, founder and president of Damron Enterprises, which operates Damron Packaging & Logistics in Chicago:

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    1. Increase the number of job opportunities in the African American community by offering low-cost loans to small businesses

    • SBA (Forgivable) loans similar to those triggered by COVID. Create programs to do this all year long.
    • Eliminate penalties for 401(k) withdrawals for workers in the African American community.
    • Reduce taxes for companies that invest in the African American community.
    • Create a health care fund that will subsidize health care for companies located in the African American community.

    2. African American entrepreneurs cannot get access to capital. Create a consortium bank to piggyback on the Community Reinvestment Act.

    3. Create programs to increase the number of African American high school graduates.

    • A program similar to the Peace Corps, earned repayment amortization (ERA), in which student debt would be forgiven for time spent working in African American communities.

    4. Reduce incarceration rates for nonviolent offenses.

    5. Establish phased-in minimum wage increase.

    6. Commit to a holistic governmental approach with specific departments addressing specific issues. We need a task force comprised of departments of commerce, housing and banking to develop solutions for these issues.

    7. Tie executive compensation to diversity and inclusion goals. For this effort to advance, it must start at the top and be incentivized for real top-down commitment.

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