Southern Small Businesses and Nonprofits Impacted by Covid Can Now Apply for Support from Multi-Million Dollar Fund

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Southern Small Businesses and Nonprofits Impacted by Covid Can Now Apply for Support from Multi-Million Dollar Fund

Small businesses and nonprofits across 15 southern states can now get low-interest loans of up to $100,000 and free business support from the Southern Opportunity and Resilience (SOAR) Fund as they work to rebuild from the pandemic

Small business owners and nonprofits across the South can begin applying today for very low-interest loans of up to $100,000 and free business support through the Southern Opportunity and Resilience (SOAR) Fund—a new program created by a diverse group of community leaders aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofits navigate and rebuild from the Covid-19 health and economic crisis.

The SOAR Fund is launching with more than $50 million in initial commitments —provided by philanthropic, private and corporate investors—and aims to eventually lend $150 million or more to small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees in 15 southern and southeastern states. The loans are designed to reach the smallest of small businesses and those that have been historically underbanked, including those in rural areas and those owned by women, people of color, and immigrants. These businesses often struggle to access capital from traditional sources but are critical to providing jobs and supporting economic recovery in communities across the South.

The Fund works with and through local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which have been serving the types of un-and underinvested businesses the SOAR Fund aims to help for decades.

“The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated an already uneven recovery from the Great Recession. Southern states had slower economic growth, lower labor force participation, and higher unemployment than the rest of the country, partially driven by the historic lack of corporate and philanthropic investment in the region,” said George Ashton, managing director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which manages the Fund. “The SOAR Fund will tackle these issues head-on by addressing structural barriers to economic opportunity by providing capital to Southern small businesses and nonprofits that need it now.”

Eligible applicants will be matched with a participating lender that will assist the business owner with the application and provide advisory support. Applicants will be able to sign up online and get matched to a lender in less than five minutes. 

“We encourage all small businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the Covid pandemic and need a hand in rebuilding to apply now,” said Patrick Davis, Vice President of Program Strategy and Development at Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, which is hosting the Fund’s online platform. “This is affordable capital that can help small business owners and nonprofits hang on and rebuild, which is vitally important to all of us. Nonprofits provide crucial services and support to our communities and small businesses create jobs and provide valuable economic activity. Strong southern small businesses and nonprofits will lead to a strong economic recovery for southern communities.”

Thirteen CDFIs are originating loans purchased by the Fund, including Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), Accion Opportunity Fund, Ascendus, BCL of Texas, Black Business Investment Fund, Communities Unlimited, LiftFund, NCIFund, NDC’s Community Investment Loan Fund, Pathway Lending, People Fund, Southern Bancorp Community Partners, and TruFund Financial Services. As a collaborative, these lenders have full reach across the region, have served on the front lines of the economic crisis and have decades of experience providing high-touch lending and advisory services to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The CDFIs are supported by leading technical assistance and business support organizations including Winrock International, LISC’s local offices and national rural program, and Small Business Majority, which will help with outreach, education, and hands-on business advisory services. Calvert Impact Capital is arranging and LISC Fund Management is managing the Fund.

The SOAR Fund covers: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Catalytic initial grants and loans have been provided by Capital One, Ceniarth, the Jacksonville, Florida-based Chartrand Family, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, F.B. Heron Foundation, Fidelity Charitable with support from CapShift, the Grove Foundation, the Heifer Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Mercy Investment Services, Microsoft, the Ms. Foundation for Women, North Berkeley Wealth Management clients, Winrock International, and Woodforest National Bank.

“To ensure an equitable recovery across the south driven by the region’s entrepreneurs, we need all hands on deck,” said Caroline Yarborough at Calvert Impact Capital. “We are grateful to all of the community leaders, corporations, banks, foundations, and other investors who have come together to ensure that the south’s small businesses have access to flexible, affordable capital so they can continue driving economic opportunity and resiliency in their communities.”

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