Only 4% of MDEAT's budget spent on business development

The Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust, tasked with the equitable participation of Black people in the county’s economic prosperity, devotes more money to staffing than it does to economic development.

In MDEAT’s 2018-2019 budget, the Office of the Executive Director and Administration was allocated $1,030,000; earmarked for economic development was $211,000. That is 24% to administering the agency and 4% to advocate for economic activity.

That was a 1 percent increase over the previous budget year. In the 2017-2018 budget, economic development received was to $191,000 and the Office of the Executive Director and Administration received $969,000 - 3% to 19%.

The agency’s total budgets that were approved by County Commissioners for 2018-2019 are $4,261,000 and $4,849,000 in 2017-2018.

MDEAT, today, has three core programs it operates: economic development, teen court and homeownership assistance. Homeownership, a critical need in Miami-Dade County, takes up the largest share of the agency’s budget. In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 Homeownership Assistance received 51% and 58%, respectively. But Black families gets less than half of the funding the program dispenses.

The numbers point to an agency, which has moved away from what was its core mission to spreading its wealth to programs that either help all county residents or barely performs.

In an emailed statement, MDEAT staff explained its funding sources, and said the Office of the Executive Director and Administration needs enough money to run the agency’s operations.

“Essential services key to the administration of these … divisions (i.e. human resources, budget and finance, contracts, operations and marketing) are covered by the parent organization – MDEAT’s Office of Executive Director and Administration -- and thus require a budget large enough to fund such essential positions.”

John E. Dixon Jr., MDEAT executive director, said on Friday, Aug. 2, the general fund amount varies but has been flat throughout the past few years.

“We haven’t had any major increase,” Dixon said.

Dixon joined as deputy director in 2006 when the agency was the Miami Metro Action Plan. He became executive director in 2009.

The Miami Metro Action Plan started in 1983 after the county acknowledged an economic disparity among Blacks and other races. MMAP became MDEAT in 2009 and is supposed to work at leveling the economic playing field for Black people in the county.

Economic development activities are paid from the county government’s general fund. The money pays for the economic development budget, which includes a staff person who coordinates projects and initiatives: an annual Black-business expo, the Small Business Capitalization Program and the Breakfast Series.

The Small Business Capitalization Program gives $2,500 to small businesses located in the 17 areas on which MDEAT focuses, known as Targeted Urban Areas. Dixon said the intent was for 14 businesses to apply in South Dade and another 14 in North Dade, but 20 applied overall.

In the 2017-2018 year, $20,000 was awarded; eight businesses each received $2,500. The majority went to Black-owned businesses - 68.75%. The other recipients were 12.5% white, 12.5% white-Hispanic and zero went to non-white Hispanic.

“Minority-owned small businesses, especially, small Black-owned businesses tend to suffer issues of lower-than-average equity invested into the business,” an MDEAT statement reads. “Thereby, creating high financial leverage/debt ratios for especially Black-owned businesses. With the Small Business Capitalization Program, the equity granted is used to improve the well-being of the business and the local community, easing the financial leverage/relative debt level.”

There are restrictions on what businesses can do with the money. Restaurants cannot use the funds to purchase food. Businesses can use the money to upgrade their technology, purchase new equipment or pay for their insurance.

MDEAT holds an expo every year in January as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to showcase Black-owned businesses. Dixon said the event draws 250-300 people from the Targeted Urban Areas. The expo is included in economic development.

A three-times-per-year Breakfast Series falls under the auspices of MDEAT’s economic development. The Breakfast Series started in 2012-2013, was held again in 2013-2014 and resumed in 2018-2019.

“In those fiscal years, the Breakfast Series was not on pause, MDEAT simply provided other economic development initiatives with the same goal of helping small businesses to grow,” a MDEAT statement reads. “There’s no guarantee that initiatives will renew every year. They are recommended through a process that involves a committee of community representatives and are adopted by our board. Additionally, we also received requests to bring the series back.”

MDEAT considers the Breakfast Series economic development because it allows for networking.

“Networking tends to give rise to more revenue and there is a direct correlation between learning and earning,” an MDEAT statement reads. “Thus, networking, learning and earning create economic well-being; as well as, quality of life for the local community.”

The first breakfast of the series took place at Flava’s in Goulds on May 14. The second breakfast was at Oasis in Miami Gardens on Aug. 2. MDEAT was the lead for Oasis’ First Friday event and plans to participate in more of its First Fridays. MDEAT doesn’t have a plan to lead any.

The third and final breakfast this year will be in September. MDEAT’s intent is to host an economic development breakfast but a date and topic have not been set.

“The idea is to get people out to talk about technical assistant services and to patronize Black businesses,” Dixon said.

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