An economic recovery loan program focused on assisting small businesses and nonprofits in 15 states, including South Carolina, began taking applications today.
The Southern Opportunity and Resilience Fund, announced last month, launched with more than $50 million in initial commitments from philanthropic, private and corporate investors. The fund aims to eventually lend $150 million or more to organizations with fewer than 50 employees in 15 southern and southeastern states, working with and through local Community Development Financial Institutions.
Applicants can receive low-interest loans of up to $100,000, as well as free business support, according to a news release. The loans target small and historically underbanked businesses, including minority-owned businesses and those in rural areas, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eligible applicants will be matched with a participating lender that will assist with the application and provide advisory support.
“We encourage all small businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the Covid pandemic and need a hand in rebuilding to apply now,” said Patrick Davis, vice president of program strategy and development at Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, which is hosting the fund’s online platform. “This is affordable capital that can help small business owners and nonprofits hang on and rebuild, which is vitally important to all of us. Nonprofits provide crucial services and support to our communities and small businesses create jobs and provide valuable economic activity. Strong southern small businesses and nonprofits will lead to a strong economic recovery for southern communities.”
The SOAR Fund covers Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau found that 63% of S.C. small businesses have less than two months cash on hand, with 28% expecting to seek capital in the next six months.
Thirteen CDFIs are originating loans purchased by the fund, including Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Accion Opportunity Fund, Ascendus, BCL of Texas, Black Business Investment Fund, Communities Unlimited, LiftFund, NCIFund, NDC’s Community Investment Loan Fund, Pathway Lending, People Fund, Southern Bancorp Community Partners, and TruFund Financial Services.
The CDFIs are supported by technical assistance and business support organizations including Winrock International, LISC’s local offices and national rural program, and Small Business Majority, which will help with outreach, education, and hands-on business advisory services. Calvert Impact Capital is arranging and LISC Fund Management is managing the fund.
"The pandemic has intensified the systematic inequalities that have historically impacted women, black, indigenous and people of color," said Janie Barrera, president and CEO of LiftFund. "Through the SOAR Fund partnership, we are proud to collaborate with other financial institutions to collectively reduce barriers for diverse entrepreneurs, and work toward a just and equitable economy where everyone has an opportunity to prosper."