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WASHINGTON — A bill to jumpstart Native American-owned small business creation passed the House on Monday and is on its way to the White House for the president’s signature.   

The Native American Business Incubators Program Act will establish and fund business incubators in Indian Country to help start and cultivate Native American-owned small businesses. The bill authorizes $5 million over three years to establish and maintain business incubators that serve Native entrepreneurs and reservation communities.  

The business incubators will serve as a “one-stop shop for Native American entrepreneurs” seeking help developing business plans, navigating regulations and accessing capital, according to a release by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who sponsored the legislation.

The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by five Democrats: Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Tina Smith (Minn.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.). 

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, led the bill in the House of Representatives.

The incubators will serve as a much-needed resource in Indian Country, where entrepreneurs often face unique start-up challenges, such as difficulty accessing business loans, federal restrictions on tribal lands and location in highly rural areas.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of strong economies and communities, but hardworking Native American entrepreneurs often run into difficulties getting their businesses off the ground,” Udall said in a statement. “I introduced this legislation to help Native American business owners navigate through red tape, gain access to start-up capital, and set their business up for success.”

Economic investments and support for Native small businesses are needed now more than ever, as Indian Country faces new financial hurdles due to the Trump administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, Udall said.  

Haaland, a former small business owner, cheered the passage of the bill.  

“Native Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit can break cycles of poverty, but for far too long, key economic resources have not been available to Native businesses,” Haaland said in a statement. “In the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession, Tribal communities need our help now more than ever. The Native American Business Incubators Program Act will ensure that future business owners in Indian Country can grow their enterprises and build strong vibrant economies.”

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