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-NM), who sponsored the legislation.

The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by five Democrats: Martin Heinrich (NM), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Tina Smith (MN) and Maria Cantwell (WA). 

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), 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.”

Support Independent Indigenous Journalism

Native News Online is an independent, Indigenous-led newsroom with a crucial mission:  We want to change the narrative about Indian Country. We do this by producing intelligent, fact-based journalism that tells the full story from all corners of Indian Country.  We pride ourselves on covering the tribes you may have never heard of before and by respecting and listening to the communities we serve through our reporting. As newsrooms across the country continue to shrink, coverage of Indian Country is more important than ever, and we are committed to filling this ever-present hole in journalism.

Because we believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities, the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount, big or small, gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. 
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online Staff