COVID-19 in Philly: Community members, industry leaders form small business task force

    The skyline in Center City Philadelphia (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

    By The Philadelphia Tribune

    PHILADELPHIA — A new task force has been formed to provide aid and guidance to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The COVID-19 Small Diverse Business and Community Task Force was organized to facilitate opportunities for small and small minority-owned businesses to work with state, local and federal government in providing aid to local communities with a focus on the most underrepresented and affected members such as elderly, disabled, economically disadvantaged and homeless Pennsylvanians.

    The task force includes federal contracting personnel who have worked on multiple federal projects in disaster zones. All members serve on a voluntary basis.

    The volunteers will work with small businesses that offer a wide range of contract services, including the construction of medical facilities, cleaning and sterilization, environmental testing, security, provision of emergency supplies, food distribution and housing assistance. They will also assist businesses with applications for disaster relief loans, recovery planning and training.

    Officials said that by channeling the skills of diverse small businesses into disaster relief efforts, the task force will position the businesses for a strong recovery in the post-COVID economy, build resilience in Pennsylvania communities, and create and retain jobs during and after the pandemic.

    The task force advisory board members include Kerry L. Kirkland, deputy secretary for diversity, inclusion and small business opportunities; Michael A. Brown, president of the 360 Group of Companies; Jamie Bracey-Green, director of STEM education outreach and research at the Temple University College of Engineering; Joshua Pollard, president and CEO of Omicelo; Jeff Hornstein, executive director of the Economy League of Philadelphia; Della Clark, president of the Enterprise Center; Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce Western Pennsylvania; Joann Bell, director of Philadelphia government office at Pugliese Associates; Harold O. Epps, senior adviser at Bellevue Strategies and former Philadelphia commerce director; City Councilman Derek Green; and Jennifer Rodriquez, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber.

    The task force’s independent advisers are Michael A. Horsey, an independent auditor and chairman and CEO of Horsey Buckner & Heffler Accountants and Advisors, and Ray Jones, an independent auditor and former police captain at UMDNJ.

    During the next few weeks, the task force will launch initiatives that will assist people in safely traveling while returning to the workforce once “stay at home” orders are lifted by state and local governments, as well as ensuring that small businesses get equitable access to contracting opportunities.

    This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune, a publishing partner of the Capital-Star.