Courtesy of NNPA Newswire
Courtesy of NNPA Newswire

Wells Fargo has selected City First Enterprises, ECDC Enterprise Development Group, Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) to receive grants from its Open for Business Fund. The initiative will bring nearly $10 million to the District to help underserved, small businesses stay open and preserve jobs.

The funding will enable these organizations to provide short- and long-term COVID-19 recovery efforts, technical assistance and micro-lending programs for diverse, small business owners.

The Open for Business Fund represents a roughly $420 million small business recovery effort across the U.S. to help entrepreneurs recover and rebuild.

Through this initiative, Wells Fargo continues to engage Community Development Financial Institutions [CDFIs] and nonprofits to provide much-needed capital, technical expertise and long-term resiliency programs to small business owners who have been hard hit by COVID-19.
Through May, the Open for Business Fund helped an estimated 35,000 minority-owned small businesses keep an estimated 90,000 jobs nationwide and will continue to announce new grants throughout 2021.

“So many of our small businesses aren’t just shops and services; they’re reservoirs of wisdom and accumulated expertise – places like JC Lofton Tailors, a family-owned local tailor business that carries 80 years of a powerful legacy. The saying goes, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ – and this is that time. We need to help them now, so they’ll be there later,” said LISC DC Executive Director Ramon Jacobson.

The owner of JC Lofton Tailors in Washington D.C. applied for and received a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund through LISC D.C., allowing him to catch up on some of his bills.

Among the first to receive to receive funding from the Open for Business Fund announced last year, LISC DC has used the funding to distribute grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to small businesses like JC Lofton Tailors, as well as recoverable-backed 0% loans ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.

In addition to existing small business support, the CDFIs will develop and expand programs aimed to address systemic issues and unique challenges faced by diverse entrepreneurs.

“The pandemic along with natural disasters has increased the vulnerability of entrepreneurs across the region, especially those involved with long-term construction projects. Disruption is the new normal.” said Wacif CEO Harold Pettigrew Jr.

“With the launch of the National Capital Small Business Resilience Center, we are proud to build on our long-term, strategic partnership with Wells Fargo and to provide a new set of solutions to support and position underserved entrepreneurs to drive regional economic recovery,” he said.

“ECDC Enterprise Development Group is extremely pleased and grateful to Wells Fargo for funding that means so much to so many small business owners impacted by COVID that desperately need support to bounce back and maintain their business.” said Fikru Abebe, managing director, ECDC Enterprise Development Group.

“The Open for Business Fund enlists the care and expertise of organizations like City First Enterprises, ECDC Enterprise Development Group, NCRC, LEDC, Wacif and LISC D.C., to urgently assist the small business community and to help navigate entrepreneurs back to growth.” said Jenny Flores, head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy.

“Small business owners inspire us with their resilience. It is incumbent on all of us to help enable an inclusive economic recovery for these entrepreneurs and the neighborhoods they support.”

“For too long, businesses in lower-income neighborhoods have been ignored by lenders,” said John Taylor, president and founder of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

“Wells Fargo’s grant to our Community Development Fund will allow us to continue to offer affordable loans to small business owners, with a particular emphasis on lending to minority and/or women-owned businesses. We appreciate Wells Fargo’s continued commitment and leadership to helping communities of color and working poor communities access capital and as a result create jobs and increase economic activity,” he said.

“At City First Enterprises we believe in the strength of human resilience in the face of formidable challenges,” said Oswaldo Acosta, president and executive director, City First Enterprises.

“We are optimistic about a healthy recovery for our region’s economy and the continued vibrancy of our small business corridors. However, we acknowledge the path ahead will be difficult without key investments from stakeholders in the financial sector.”

“Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund is a strong signal that our sector’s leaders are determined to play a pivotal role in an equitable recovery. We are excited about this partnership and ready to deliver inclusive capital to our communities where it is needed the most,” Acosta said.

“Wells Fargo’s support of LEDC has been invaluable over the years. We have been able to launch new initiatives and expand our reach to some of the most underserved entrepreneurs in the country,” said Marjorie Nemes, LEDC interim executive director and CEO.

“This investment will allow LEDC to finance small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in innovative ways and help to ensure the long-term sustainability of LEDC,” she said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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