More than 200 small businesses, the majority owned by minority, women and veteran entrepreneurs, received grants of up to $10,000 this week to help them stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis. The grants are part of a $7.5 million collaboration with Verizon to support enterprises in underinvested communities across rural and urban America.
Nine weeks ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic was already taking a dangerously heavy toll on America’s small businesses and the millions of people they employ, LISC and the telecom giant Verizon teamed up to help them. In that time, Verizon has committed $7.5 million for grants to business owners across the country. And LISC has pushed those dollars out the door, deploying them in the places hardest hit by the crisis, especially to women-, minority- and veteran-owned enterprises.
This week, LISC and Verizon announced the second of three rounds of grants, to more than 200 small businesses from underinvested communities across urban and rural America. Each is receiving up to $10,000 each to help cover payroll, rent and other critical operating costs.
Of the more than 400 businesses that have received grants thus far (a staggering 170,000 applied), 90 percent are minority-owned, 43 percent are woman-owned and 12 percent are veteran-owned. Ninety-four percent operate in historically underserved communities that have not had ready access to flexible, affordable capital.
These numbers are significant, to be sure, and help tell the story of the devastating economic fallout of the pandemic and how it has further exposed the fault lines of discrimination and inequity in this country.
But the individual business owners we have met through this experience tell stories of extraordinary vision, compassion and resilience. Like Rafael Larios, a grantee and owner of the Honduras’ Kitchen restaurants in Huntington and Long Beach, CA, who gives out free meals to all comers every day of the week. Or DeShanta Black, of rural Pennington, AK, who started sewing masks for her vulnerable neighbors when she had to close her beauty boutique.
Or Jonathan Quarles, born and raised in Flint, MI who, in the wake of the city’s water crisis, created a business to harvest clean water from the atmosphere with solar panels. “We are a for-profit company, but we’re a social impact company,” he said, “My mission is to eradicate poverty through entrepreneurship.”
We are honored to be part of that mission.