JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon pledges $850,000 to help minorities open LI businesses.  Credit: Chris Ware/Newsday

JPMorgan Chase & Co. chairman and chief executive Jamie Dimon Monday announced $850,000 in fresh funding for a program to advance minority businesses on Long Island.

"It's been 175 years since the Civil War, and the Black community isn't even remotely close to [economic] parity," Dimon said in a news conference at the bank's Huntington branch.

Dimon said economic divisions have been widened by the COVID-19 pandemic when society's lower-income tiers were left behind.

The funding from the No. 1 U.S. bank by assets will be funneled through the four-year-old Ascend Long Island program, managed by Hofstra University.

That initiative, part of JPMorgan's nationwide Ascend Cities program, previously raised $2.1 million and has connected Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs to management coaching, market opportunities and capital access, officials said.

Also attending the news conference were: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone; Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling and Hofstra University's vice president for economic development and professional studies, Lawrence Levy.

Levy said that racism remains embedded in Long Island institutions and practices.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, at lectern, talks about the economy at...

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, at lectern, talks about the economy at a Huntington Chase branch with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, 3rd from the right, and others looking on.. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

"Jim Crow suburban-style lives on," he said, referring to the system of laws and customs that Blacks faced in the South long after slavery was abolished. 

Ascend Long Island is also supported by National Grid, Northwell Health, the PSEG Foundation, and the Long Island Community Foundation.

Dowling said that Northwell Health provides opportunities for minority-owned businesses to gain entry to its supply-procurement system. 

Terry Arnold McKenzie, Ascend Long Island program manger, said 55 entrepreneurs have won almost $4 million in contracts under the program's auspices since 2019.

Sekou Kaalund, head of JPMorgan's consumer banking for the Northeast, said Ascend Long Island is one of 15 Ascend Cities programs launched by the bank nationwide.

Ascend Long Island is administered by Hofstra’s Center for Entrepreneurship, National Center for Suburban Studies, and Scott Skodnek Business Development Center and partners with BOC Capital Corp and an Anchor Partner Advisory Council comprised of regional corporations and governments that are committed to supplier diversity.

Nancy Carin, executive director of Brooklyn-based community lender BOC Capital, said her organization's role is to arrange funding for entrepreneurs "that might not fit the credit profile that banks require."

Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, said, “Small businesses continue to face economic uncertainty and that’s why the commitment from JPMorgan Chase and Northwell Health is so critical right now as a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive economy will lead to overall growth.”

Speaking on the broader economy, Dimon in an interview urged small- and mid-size businesses to be agile as they manage risks in an environment where the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, the economy is slowing and Europe is getting closer to a recession.

"Businesses should always be prepared for hostile events," said Dimon.

Dimon said traffic to JPMorgan Chase bank branches remains robust with 800,000 customers coming each day.

"People like to visit their money," he said.

The mix of transactions, however, is changing with fewer deposits and checks cashed and more wealth management and small-business activity, Dimon said. 

On Long Island, JPMorgan Chase has 133 branches, 412 ATMs and more than 1,900 employees.

The bank held $3.48 trillion in assets as of March 31, making it the largest U.S. financial institution.

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