In his latest message, LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones lays out the kinds of holistic investment that a multi-faceted $60 million partnership with Kaiser Permanente will help make possible. "An America where ZIP code, more than any other factor, determines a person’s prospects in life is not sustainable," argues Jones. "For our communities to recover from Covid-19 and set out on a path toward equitable growth, we must make investments that break down barriers and create opportunities that are open to all."
If there were an overarching theme to deepening conversations of Covid-19 it might be this: when we invest in economic opportunity that includes all Americans, we invest in community health as well. This moment calls for a more intentional, more inclusive approach to community investing that directly confronts race, class and health disparities throughout the country and, in doing so, makes our national economy more resilient.
With that in mind, LISC is teaming up with Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s top health care companies, on a $60 million inclusive economic development partnership that will help businesses and communities recover from the pandemic, while also supporting longer term growth. A key goal is to provide flexible, lower-cost financing that is often unavailable in the conventional marketplace, especially for women- and minority-led businesses that operate in low-wealth communities.
Our discussions with Kaiser Permanente began long before the coronavirus and recession took root, recognizing the strong connection between the social and economic conditions of our communities and the health of local residents. We’ve been particularly mindful of the racial wealth gap in our country and inequitable access to opportunity that we have long sought to address. Despite the low unemployment and steady growth numbers of recent years, there have been clear indications that capital has not been perfectly flowing where needed and to talent who could use it well.
Small businesses, for instance, are the heartbeat of their communities, but startups have been growing in just a handful of places since the last recession. The number of counties that have been losing businesses has more than tripled since the 1990s, and thousands of census tracts—urban, rural and suburban—have faced persistent, double-digit unemployment, limiting prospects for millions of Americans. The pandemic has exacerbated these conditions, with workers earning relatively modest wages and communities of color disproportionately affected.
In response, we must invest in ways that are designed to catalyze broadly shared opportunity. Kaiser Permanente and LISC are each committing $30 million in capital to this effort, expanding our work around racial, social and economic justice while also helping build more resilient local economies. (Read more about Kaiser Permanente’s efforts here). Loans will be made in areas of Kaiser Permanente operations across eight states, with a focus on underserved businesses, especially entrepreneurs of color, and a concentration in southern California, where LISC will deploy a three-pronged economic development strategy in South Los Angeles and San Diego’s City Heights.
Our holistic approach will include small business investment, commercial real estate loans to transform under-utilized commercial and industrial corridors, and support for workforce and talent development efforts that prepare and connect qualified workers to employers in growth industries. All of these activities are part of a healthy ecosystem for economic opportunity, which Kaiser Permanente is further supporting with a $2 million grant.
Our aspirations? We hope to finance dozens of enterprises and commercial real estate projects through this partnership, facilitate the creation and retention of critical jobs, and sustain, expand and produce a range of vital community assets—quality affordable housing, health care offices, bustling storefronts, healthy food enterprises and childcare services, to name just a few.
Research tells us that these types of investments will ultimately contribute to improved physical and mental health and well-being and reduce the troubling gaps in life expectancy that cause people in some communities to die decades sooner than neighbors in more affluent areas, even when living just blocks apart from each other.
As a nation, we cannot ignore these disparities. An America where ZIP code, more than any other factor, determines a person’s prospects in life will fall short of her destiny. For our communities to recover from Covid-19 and recession, and set out on a path toward inclusiveness and sustainable growth, we must make investments that break down barriers and create opportunities that are open to all.
We are grateful to Kaiser Permanente for its remarkable support and partnership in this effort. For more information about the program, see here.
Maurice A. Jones, President & CEO, LISC
Prior to joining LISC, Maurice was the Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed 13 state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state. Before that, he was second in command at the U.S. Dept. of HUD, serving as deputy secretary in charge of operations. He has also been Commissioner of Virginia’s Dept. of Social Services and Deputy Chief of Staff to then-Gov. Mark Warner. At the U.S. Treasury Dept. during the Clinton Administration, he managed the CDFI fund. His private sector experience includes top positions at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, a Richmond law firm and a private philanthropy investing in community-based efforts to benefit children in Washington, D.C.