Social network Facebook on Thursday became the latest US corporation to pledge big money to boost economic development among Black Americans in the wake of violent unrest spawned by the killing of George Floyd.
Facebook said it will invest $1.1 billion this year in efforts to assist Black- and minority-owned businesses, including $100 million in grants and advertising credits aimed at Black-owned businesses, creators of digital content, and nonprofit organizations. The company also vowed to spend at least $1 billion per year with diverse suppliers of products and services, ranging from marketing to construction services. At least $100 million will go specifically to Black-owned suppliers.
Facebook also plans to provide free digital skills training to 1 million Black and 1 million Latinx people. The company will provide 100,000 scholarships to Black students entering its Facebook Blueprint digital skills certification program, and will donate $5 million to Facebook fundraisers for the Equal Justice Initiative, Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Innocence Project.
Betty Francisco, co-founder of Amplify Latinx, a nonprofit that works with Latinx-owned businesses, said grants from Facebook could toss a lifeline to small companies which haven’t been able to secure help through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. “Cash grants are really what businesses need right now as they move to reopen,” Francisco said.
Segun Idowu, executive director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, welcomed Facebook’s pledges, but questioned the company’s commitment. He noted Facebook has yet to publish details about how the various programs will work and how businesses can apply. “The fact that there are no details just spells to me that this is just a press release,” said Idowu. “We’re always stuck with the bag of having to check in six months later to see if anything materializes.”
A host of US companies have made big financial pledges and vowed sweeping changes in management in a bid to address the nation’s racial inequalities. Bank of America has promised $1 billion over four years in loans to small, minority-owned businesses, and to support health clinics and recruit new employees in minority neighborhoods. Athletic wear company Nike has promised $40 million over four years; telecom company Comcast has pledged $100 million over four years; and retailer Walmart will put up $100 million over five years.