PANEL DISCUSSION: Small Business Needs In The Biden Administration Panel Discussion Series

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, AFR with our coalition partner, Main Street Alliance, have been advocating for more rational and equitable small business relief in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Before the pandemic, AFR promoted the need for new and innovative means to channel aid to small businesses of color since the big banks have proven to be unable and unwilling. 

To promote our findings, AFR is convening a series of panel discussions for Capitol Hill staff, advocates, academics and the media. The first of these panels will feature experts from a wide spectrum of expertise to discuss what will be needed to help small businesses generally, recover from the pandemic. The next panel will focus on the needs of small businesses of color and what changes to policy are necessary for these businesses to thrive given our history of discrimination in their access to capital.

Panel 1 – Small Business Needs In a Pandemic


Didier Trinh joined Main Street Alliance last fall as government affairs director. He brings two decades of federal policy and advocacy experience in Washington DC, including most recently launching and leading a coalition focused on promoting local participation and empowerment of communities in developing countries that receive U.S. foreign assistance. 

Didier Video

Panelists Intros Video

Apollo Woods founded OKC Black Eats in 2017 to increase awareness and visibility of Black-owned restaurants and culinary artists in Oklahoma City. The goal of OKC Black Eats has been to stimulate the local economy by circulating local dollars in predominantly African/African American communities. Currently, Apollo serves as the founding chairman of the African American Leaders Foundation and is an active board member with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma & Leadership Oklahoma City.

Apollo Video

Sameeksha (Samee) Desai is the director of special projects and advisory, knowledge creation and research in Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she advances special projects and activities related to the Foundation’s entrepreneurship research strategy and thought leadership. She focuses on identifying knowledge gaps that must be closed in order to advance entrepreneurship and advises on actionable and practical research that can inform programmatic strategies. She is an entrepreneurship researcher and her work focuses on the policy environment and challenges for new business owners.

Samee Video

Tom Feltner joined NCRC as Director of Policy in September 2020 with nearly twenty years of policy development, research and communications experience at economic justice organizations. Before joining NCRC, Tom was executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending, where he led the organization’s applied research program, including original research for policy white papers on mortgage lending, small business lending and consumer credit. He also led the organization’s public opinion polling on economic and financial services issues. Before CRL, Tom served as director of financial services at the Consumer Federation of America.

Feltner Video

Tamara K. Nopper is a sociologist, writer, editor, and data artist whose research focuses on the racial and gender wealth gap, financialization, criminalization, punishment, and the social impact of technology, with a particular emphasis on alternative data and credit scoring. A Fellow at Data for Progress and an Affiliate of The Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies, Nopper’s scholarship and writing have appeared in numerous academic publications as well as in The New Inquiry, Jacobin, Truthout, and Verso Books Blog. She researched and wrote several data stories for Colin Kaepernick’s Abolition for the People series.

Tamara Video

Panel 1 Discussion Video

Panel 1 Video (Complete Broadcast)

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Panel 2: Leveling the Playing Field for Small Businesses of Color


Rion Dennis is the Legislative & Advocacy Director for Americans for Financial Reform and leads the Capitol Hill outreach for the organization focusing on financial services legislation and regulation. Over a 20 year career in advocacy for progressive causes, Rion has worked for the Change to Win Labor Federation, the NAACP and ROC United. As Executive Director of Progressive Maryland, the state’s largest progressive advocacy organization, Rion led numerous successful legislative campaigns which have enacted serious reforms within the state of Maryland, including budget and tax reform, re-enfranchisement of felon voting rights, criminal justice reform, marriage equality, worker protections, telecommunication and environmental regulations as well as election and civil rights protections.


Renee Johnson is a Senior Advisor to Public Private Strategies where she develops innovative strategies for clients to impact the conversation surrounding small business needs with a focus on access to capital, especially to small business owners of color while advocating and creating partnerships and opportunities to provide educational resources for their businesses to thrive. Renee has over fifteen years of experience where she served in numerous roles focusing on her passion to have more women of color enter politics and policy, entrepreneurship, leadership, and advocate for themselves. 

Renee Video

Anneliese Lederer is the Director of Fair Lending and Consumer Protection for NCRC. Anneliese is a graduate of the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and Yeshiva University Stern College for Women. She is a member of the bar in the state of Maryland. She has previously worked and interned for a diverse group of legal practices and legislative interests.

Sterling Bone is a Professor of Marketing and Director of the Huntsman ProSales Program at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. Currently his research is focused on alleviating disparities in the marketplace for financial services among racial and gender diverse consumers. Other topics include consumer resiliency and recovery in post-terrorist marketplace attacks, and customer experience management.

Sterling & Ali Video

Ashley Harrington is federal advocacy director and senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), a non-profit policy and research organization dedicated to eliminating abusive lending practices and advancing financial opportunities for people of color and low-income individuals. Ms. Harrington leads CRL’s federal advocacy efforts, helping to shape fair lending and consumer protection reforms to address the racial wealth gap. Her portfolio includes a range of consumer lending issues, with a focus on student debt reform.

Ashley Video

Panel 2 Discussion Video

Panel 2 Video (Complete Broadcast)