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Amaya Smith, founder of Product Junkie, prepares orders for online customers. (Photo: Cheriss May/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic inequities that women and minority workers and business owners already faced, reinforcing gender roles and widening racial disparities.

Driving the news: Against this backdrop, a new partnership between the National Urban League and the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way wants to level the playing field for entrepreneurs — and plans to push for federal action, Axios has learned.

  • The initiative, Alliance for Entrepreneurial Equity, aims to create an agenda of policies that will eventually be supported by Congress and President Biden.
  • Expected to be on that agenda: equalizing access to capital, networks and markets for minority and women entrepreneurs. 

Why it matters: While many grassroots efforts exist to improve entrepreneurial equity, very few are focused on effecting long-term changes at the federal level.

Context: One study from Yelp from earlier this year found that women-owned businesses, Latino-owned businesses and Black-owned businesses were more likely to close and reopen two or more times, compared to other businesses.

  • More than half (51%) of Black-owned small businesses have less than three months’ cash, compared to 44% of all small business owners, according to a recent Goldman Sachs survey

What they’re saying: Throughout the pandemic, "we've seen the power of Congress and the federal government in [bringing a] historic amount of change to small businesses," Imani Augustus, Director of AEE, tells Axios.

  • The big picture: From government funding to reconciliation, the talk on Capitol Hill this year has been about rebuilding the economy — and specifically, how to create a post-COVID economy that is “more inclusive and equitable,” adds Gabe Horwitz, senior vice president of the economic program at Third Way.

The bottom line: “We need far more small businesses, period,” Horwitz says.

Go deeper

A glimmer of hope for Austin's COVID-stricken businesses

Customers wearing protective masks view a display case of doughnuts for sale at a store in Austin. Photo: Mary Kang/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The number of businesses operating downtown has increased by more than 60 since February, according to the latest biannual report from the Downtown Austin Alliance.

Why it matters: It's a promising sign for an area that was hit hard by business closures during the pandemic. Even after Gov. Greg Abbott outlined which businesses could reopen, many still struggled because of decreased consumer demand and limited pedestrian activity.

Unruly customers threaten economic recovery

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The pace of the economic recovery hinges in part on workers returning to jobs that involve dealing with an unpredictable public. But many of those workers say increasingly combative customers — angry about everything from long wait times to mask mandates — have prompted them to quit.

The big picture: Aggressive and violent clashes between customers and service workers over COVID safety protocols over the past nearly two years have led to prison sentences, fines and deaths.

Airbnb: Hosting will be as big as the creator economy

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Airbnb global head of hosting Catherine Powell says the "hosting economy" will include as many people as the creator economy does.

The big picture: The creator economy — businesses built by independent content creators — is currently made up of more than 50 million people, according to SignalFire, a venture capital firm.