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Philadelphia Small-Business Owners Making a Way Through Pandemic

Music professor Randy Gibson has helped generations of students find and polish their talent at his Gibson School of Music & Arts in Philadelphia, including singer Jazmine Sullivan and The Roots’ keyboardist Kamal Gray. This past year hasn’t been easy, but like countless other small businesses across Philadelphia and the U.S., Gibson has found a way to keep the school going, day after day, and the business is now celebrating its 26th year.

Owning a small business has never been for the faint of heart, and the pandemic coupled the typical stressors of business ownership with additional layers of financial risk and uncertainty. Yet somehow, in 2020 more than 130,000 Pennsylvanians found a way to open new businesses, up 26% from the previous year, according to the U.S. Census.

Bravery, resilience, and sheer grit are all words that come to mind. If small business owners like Gibson are willing to put it all on the line, while simultaneously employing nearly 2.5 million Pennsylvanians and 60 million Americans nationwide, how can we help them recover and rebuild even stronger?

The federal government took a momentous step in creating the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and later reconfiguring the program to ensure that Community Financial Development Institutions (CDFIs), sole proprietors, and diverse entrepreneurs have more opportunities to apply for the funding. This has allowed us at Wells Fargo to help thousands of small businesses across the state keep more than 44,000 Pennsylvanians at work through the program. A significant portion of this population has been comprised of smaller and diverse-owned businesses, with more than 85% of Wells Fargo’s PPP applications coming from companies with fewer than 10 employees, and 40% of our PPP lending going to small businesses located in either LMI or Majority-Minority census tracts.

Wells Fargo has also invested $50 million in Black-owned Minority Depository Institutions, providing capital and technical assistance for Black and African American small business owners, individuals and homeowners.

As part of the Open for Business Fund, Wells Fargo is providing grants to nonprofits, which can then provide low-cost capital and training to diverse entrepreneurs struggling the most. We’ve already provided roughly $10 million in grants to organizations in Pennsylvania, with the majority of funding going to the City of Philadelphia to help businesses remain resilient and rebuild.

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