Minority-owned local businesses have been largely been shut out of federal help during the pandemic, but will now have access to local grants under a new collaborative being funded by the Franklin County Commissioners.
The Board of Commissioners approved $2 million in CARES Act funding this morning to fund a new and innovative collaboration with One Columbus and the Columbus Urban League aimed at helping minority-owned businesses with grants, access to capital, and more. Federal data has shown that of the $3.4 billion loaned to Ohio businesses during this pandemic only about three percent went to businesses owned by African Americans.
“We can’t be a prosperous country if we leave people behind. And we now see just how disproportionate the federal aid has been. We knew we needed to take action,” said John O’Grady, President of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. “This is just another way we are committed to fighting systemic racism head on."
Of the $2 million in funding, $1.6 million will go to the Franklin County Business Growth and Equity Alliance Fund for three different types of grants: stabilization, retention and technology retention grants. The remaining funds will help promote representation in high growth industries and will set a foundation for a Community Development Financing Institution, which can help serve the unmet needs of minority-owned businesses.
“This is a critical time for businesses as they try to stay afloat in this pandemic, so we must make sure that all businesses have access to grants and loans now,” Commissioner Marilyn Brown said. “This work is just the beginning and will be needed for many years to come as we create an inclusive economy that will help all of us thrive.”
Amounts that businesses will be eligible for will vary by type of grant. However, all three grants require some of the same criteria: businesses must be in existence and be able to demonstrate a “qualified business need” due to hardships caused by the coronavirus.
“Small businesses will be relied on for the growth of our economy. To ensure they can thrive, we have formed a collaboration with One Columbus, the local experts at business growth, and the Columbus Urban League, a long-standing, successful support for the African-American community,” Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce said. “It is important that people know this is just a start. I want to challenge our partners in the private sector to join us by working with businesses, so we truly level the playing field. “
One Columbus President and CEO Kenny McDonald and Stephanie Hightower, who is president and CEO of the Columbus Urban League, voiced support for the collaboration and said they are ready to create and help businesses find new pathways of success.
Franklin County’s funding for this grant comes from CARES Act dollars, federal funding provided for communities to help navigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. So far, the Franklin County Commissioners have committed more than $27 million in CARES Act funding for assistance to Franklin County residents and businesses. Other assistance they have provided includes grants and loans to businesses
, eviction assistance, emergency grants for residents
, workforce training, home-delivered meals for seniors, minority business assistance
, emergency overflow center for COVID-19 patients