From federal relief funds to local grants and even crowdfunding, small businesses struggling during the pandemic have been offered a plethora of new resources to keep them going. That doesn’t mean it’s been enough, of course, with the ongoing pandemic prolonging this recession.
One local micro-loan program hopes to further alleviate entrepreneurs’ financial challenges.
Univest Bank and Trust Co’s. Micro-Loan Program was designed to help local small businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic. The Souderton-based bank teamed with Bryn Mawr Trust Company, Customer’s Bank, OceanFirst Bank and WSFS Bank to commit $650,000 to fund the program, which offers 10-year, low-interest loan amounts ranging from $3,000 to $25,000.
Samantha Arland, SVP and relationship manager with Univest’s Community Business Lending division, said she and local market prez Michael Fitzgerald began developing the program in July 2020 as a way to better support Univest’s customers and communities.
“We recognize so many small businesses and small business owners have been impacted by the pandemic and civil unrest,” she told Technical.ly.
Since the program started in November 2020, Arland has seen a steady demand for requests from a variety of businesses. She said feedback has been positive from biz owners in the program and attributes that in part to its easy application process.
Like many entrepreneurs, REC Philly cofounder Dave Silver said his business was drastically affected by the pandemic. After opening its new coworking-slash-studio-slash-event space in the Fashion District in December 2019, REC Philly was forced to close its doors in March 2020 due to COVID-19. (Virtual programming continued and the space reopened over the summer). REC Philly received funding through Univest’s Micro-Loan Program in November.
“The stress of 2020 was one thing — having access to capital is another,” Silver said. “This program has really helped our company have a bit more breathing room to operate our business and get back to focusing on growth.”
The loan also helped REC Philly focus on digital content, resources for creatives and its digital membership program, Silver said.
The program is open indefinitely, and businesses don’t need to be current clients of the participating banks to apply. Arland said she’s hopeful the micro-loan program can help any small business owners who are struggling through the pandemic and need breathing space to plan their next steps.
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Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-