Urban League “Together We Build Wealth Fund” aims to close racial wealth gap

The racial wealth gap continues to be an issue that the nation tries to reconcile with in its long history of anti-Black standards. The Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) aims to tackle the racial wealth gap with its Together We Build Wealth fund.

The fund from ULGM aims to provide businesses with grants to bolster Black owned businesses with the necessary funds to expand operations. Now in its second round of funding, Together We Build Wealth was started in honor of Sylvia T. O’Neill “to address the wealth gap between white and Black families in Dane County caused by systemic and institutional racism,” according to ULGM’s website.

“(For) small businesses, particularly small Black owned businesses, access to capital is a barrier,” said Ed Lee of ULGM. “For a for-profit business to be eligible for and be able to receive a grant I think is relatively rare.”

The Together We Build Wealth Fund looks for Black owned businesses that have operated for three or more years. The fund was established by Jan O’Neill, Sylvia’s daughter, in 2020 with money Sylvia left when she passed away.

2022 saw the first round of grant recipients with five small businesses receiving $50,000 each. Besides funds, ULGM offers additional services like coaching and technical services to help recipients further their business venture. The opportunity to receive funding for business expansion was met with excitement, as 51 businesses had applied for 2022’s grant.

“Typically, small businesses have to go the route of loans, putting in their own personal funds to launch or expand the business. I think there’s quite frankly, very few opportunities for small businesses to receive grants,” said Lee. “I think it’s an important commitment to try and transfer some wealth. These racial wealth inequities have built up through generations of unequal access to funding to business opportunities, so it’s an effort to address that.”The fund is currently in informal stages of funding for this year’s grant. The ULGM plans to ramp up efforts in the summer and open applications up. Donations are now being collected via the Together We Build Wealth fund’s page on ULMG’s website.