A group of city agencies and philanthropic supporters are banding together to help small businesses and nonprofits run by women and minorities as they navigate the realities and resources of the pandemic.
The Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses are partnering with the Baltimore Small Business Support Fund to form a network to that provides technical assistance to business and nonprofit leaders as they complete applications for federal and state programs, as well as philanthropic financial assistance programs.
It’s designed to provide help folks with gathering materials and applying to the following:
- The $10 million fund focused locally that was announced last week to be financed by Goldman Sachs and administered by Lendistry. The idea is to help biz owners prepare to apply for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans (for which more appropriations were passed by Congress Tuesday).
- U.S. Small Business Administration-backed lending available through the Latino Economic Development Center
- Non-governmental programs such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Save Small Business Fund
The Baltimore Small Business Support Fund was formed in 2018 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and includes a group of Baltimore-based foundations. It recently awarded grants to organizations supporting entrepreneurs of color. This effort shows that it is turning attention toward helping during the pandemic.
“My administration is closely monitoring and tracking all resources available to small businesses to weather this pandemic crisis, but we can’t do it alone,” Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in a statement. “That is why this public-private partnership with the Baltimore Small Business Support Fund to provide enhanced technical assistance services to Baltimore’s small businesses is vitally important.”
As part of this partnership, support fund-affiliated groups providing assistance will include Baltimore Business Lending, Baltimore Corps, Earl G. Graves School of Business & Management at Morgan State University, Impact Hub Baltimore, Innovation Works and the Latino Economic Development Center.
The program offers one example of the kind of work city-level economic development programs are bringing together in a crisis.
As part of its work, the BDC is looking to get the word out about resources that are available, and has been regularly updating information through its BaltimoreTogether website and organized a webinar to provide info about the state and federal programs.
Outreach is also a focus. On the first day that many restaurants and other businesses were closed to customers coming in, BDC launched a small business impact survey that was released on March 16 and has since garnered 700 responses. When businesses fill it out, they also get added to a database where they will receive timely updates. And along with gathering feedback, each business is receiving follow-up for one-on-one outreach from a staff member of the city economic development agency to find out the issues they were having. Part of that included asking about whether they were having any issues with the state or federal program.
“We’ve been very thoughtful and diligent in making sure that the outreach is equitable as possible,” said Colin Tarbert, CEO of the BDC, adding that 40% of the businesses the org has reached are minority-owned, while 50% are women-owned.
That has also surfaced needs, such as help navigating assistance programs. Through this network, BDC can serve as a conduit to help connect businesses to folks who can provide help. In this case, it involved connecting with the philanthropic and nonprofit community, as well government. The steps are all happening simultaneously, as survey responses and Zoom calls with partners and new resources take shape.
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