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LISC LA’s Kiva Accelerator Fund Launches, Provides Loans for Small Food Businesses During COVID-19

During this pandemic, LISC LA’s Kiva program is committed to ensuring access to fresh food and revitalizing economic opportunities for small business owners in low-income communities.

As COVID-19 impacts small businesses across the nation, LISC LA is prepared to help local entrepreneurs work through this unprecedented time with the funding, resources, and assistance they need. 

It is for this reason that we are excited to announce the launch of our Kiva Accelerator Fund – the latest extension of our Kiva loan program. 

This $150,000 fund is specifically designed to help keep local food businesses open during “Shelter In Place” orders, via a matching campaign and our 0% interest loans. During this pandemic, LISC LA’s Kiva program is committed to ensuring access to fresh food and revitalizing economic opportunities for small business owners in low-income communities.

Since 2017, the LISC LA Kiva program has successfully provided close to $250,000 in loans to 36 small businesses. By using social underwriting to provide loans, Kiva is able to deploy funding to small business owners who could not access traditional loans, which are contingent on preexisting capital. This accessibility, in addition to a 0% interest rate on all Kiva loans, provides entrepreneurs with the capacity and resources to provide for their local communities.

Jennifer Piette, Owner of Narrative Food (formerly known as Out of the Box Collective, which was fully funded by a LISC LA Kiva campaign in 2019).
Jennifer Piette, Owner of Narrative Food (formerly known as Out of the Box Collective, which was fully funded by a LISC LA Kiva campaign in 2019).

Now, with the need for these services heightened by COVID-19, LISC LA is pivoting the Accelerator Fund to provide more local food businesses with the resources and advising they need to serve their communities while complying with new safety regulations.

Under the requirements of Kiva’s mission, borrowers can apply to be endorsed by one of 22 LISC LA Kiva Trustees to receive $1 to $1 matching funds. LISC Trustees will then provide businesses with the technical assistance and strategic planning they need to navigate the difficulties of owning and operating a small business under the new regulations imposed by the pandemic. 

Support from our funders – Farmers and Merchants Bank, City National Bank, and First Bank – has been crucial in creating immediate access to resources for small businesses. Miranda Rodriguez, the LISC LA Program Officer who oversees the Kiva program, said, "The grants from our funders provided LISC LA with the capital to create this 0% revolving loan fund and provide for a new cohort of small businesses under duress."

COVID-19 has impacted every part of our economy, but LISC LA recognizes the unique challenges these impacts will present in low-income communities and food deserts. In areas with limited access to groceries and restaurants, economically disadvantaged populations will be forced to travel for supplies – putting them at higher risk of exposure and at odds with state regulations. 

As such, the Kiva Accelerator Fund will be especially important in the coming months, and will ensure that small food businesses in low-income neighborhoods and food deserts are able to provide for their communities safely, while staying in business. 

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