Ga. U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams introduces bill to fund entrepreneurs from HBCUs

The Democrat-led legislation faces difficult chances in the GOP-controlled House
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, heads to a vote on July 12th, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC

Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, heads to a vote on July 12th, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams has introduced a bipartisan bill that would establish a federal grant program for entrepreneurship initiatives at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). But it faces a tough road in the Republican-controlled House.

Williams, an Atlanta Democrat, introduced the Minority Entrepreneurship Grant Program Act of 2023 on November 17 that would create the program within the Small Business Administration. As written, the legislation would enable MSIs to apply for grants starting at $250,000 to provide resources for student entrepreneurs.

“[Atlanta is] at the bottom of the list for the racial wealth gap, and so now as someone in a position of power, I have the opportunity to put policies in place that can actually change that,” Williams said.

The bill has four co-sponsors, three Democrats and one Republican: Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Norma Torres (D-CA). Williams introduced similar legislation last December, when Democrats had control of the chamber, but it did not go anywhere. She said she feels it has a chance as a bipartisan effort to boost Black and brown entrepreneurship.

The legislation comes at a time when minority initiatives are under scrutiny. Atlanta’s own Fearless Fund, a Black women-owned venture capital firm, was sued this summer over a grant program that some activists allege is racially discriminatory because it aims to help Black women small business owners.

Another lawsuit is targeting a decades-old minority small business development program run by the SBA. In July, a federal judge’s decision on the question of minority participants’ eligibility was seen as a serious risk to the program.

Williams said she isn’t deterred by potential legal challenges if her bill becomes law.

“I can’t base what I’m doing to serve my constituents on what might happen in the future,” she said. “What I know is the need today is that Black and brown businesses need access to capital.”


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Report for America are partnering to add more journalists to cover topics important to our community. Please help us fund this important work at ajc.com/give

About the Author