Another corporate funder has stepped in to help small business in this time of economic uncertainty. Verizon recently announced another $2.5 million commitment to small businesses, bringing total funding for the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund to 7.5 million dollars.
“Small businesses across the country are confronting extreme economic challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” writes the communications giant in the description of the program. “Financial support at this critical time can make the difference between staying in business or closing permanently, leading to lost income, jobs and economic stability.”
The Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund provides grants of up to $10,000 to businesses facing immediate pressure as a result of COVID-19. The program puts particular emphasis on entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses, and “other enterprises in historically underserved communities who don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital.”
Facilitating the grants is the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nonprofit organization designed to bridge the gap between corporate, government, or foundation dollars and the communities, residents, and local institutions who need the support. Conceived by the Ford Foundation in 1979, LISC receives funding from banks, corporations, foundations, and government agencies, and turns that funding into loans, grants, and equity for local partners and developers. In addition, LISC offers technical and management assistance, along with resources that support local institutions in ways that are too hands-on for large corporations and funders to roll out effectively.
According to a recent Goldman Sachs survey, 64% of small businesses impacted by COVID-19 say their cash reserves will last less than three months–and those that remain open have cut 37% of their workforce.
By the end of April, LISC and the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund had doled out $10,000 grants to more than 200 floundering businesses.
In addition, the program rallies support for small businesses through #PayItForwardLIVE, a weekly streaming entertainment series that airs on Verizon’s social media channels, Fios, and Twitch. In its first iteration on March 26th, #PayItForwardLIVE featured a performance with Dave Matthews, with Janelle Monae taking the virtual stage for the April 30th stream.
During these livestreams, Verizon encourages viewers to support small businesses in every way they can, whether that means buying gift cards, ordering takeout from a local restaurant, donating to employee relief funds, or simply spreading the word about opportunities like the Small Business Recovery Fund on social media.
For each use of the hashtag #PayItForwardLIVE, Verizon pledged to donate $10, up to a total of $2.5 million.
“The overwhelming response received from the first round of applicants stressed the urgent need for additional funding to these businesses,” said Rose Stuckey Kirk, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer of Verizon. “Verizon recognizes how valuable small businesses are and that the economic stability of our communities is based on their success. It’s critical that we lean in and support these businesses so they can continue to sustain themselves during this unprecedented time of need.”
Within a month of these streamed performances, Verizon hit their commitment goal.
“Small businesses are the economic backbone of our communities,” said Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO. “Thanks to Verizon’s generous support, we are able to support entrepreneurs that have otherwise not been able to access relief programs – especially those owned by women, minorities and veterans – and in the process, protect the jobs and economic activity that are vital to the nation’s long-term recovery.”
Verizon is among the global conglomerates leading the charge to support small business–and diverse small business in particular–in the wake of COVID-19. The communications mogul has also stepped up to partner with Hello Alice, a platform for minority and under-represented business owners; launched a series of free webinars to help small business owners pivot to face these trying times; offered free subscriptions to Yahoo Small Business; and, through June 30th, guaranteed that it will “neither terminate service nor charge late fees to customers that notify the company of their inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
In addition, Verizon has a second program in place with the assistance of LISC: the Rapid Relief & Resiliency Fund, which will provide grants and flexible loans to people in historically under-invested communities, the places where COVID-19 has hit the hardest and people struggle to make ends meet.
The goal of the program is to raise an additional $100 million in grants, loans, and other investments that can be rolled out to desperate communities quickly and effectively through partnership with LISC.
As a small business owner, an LGBT female entrepreneur, and a writer covering the impact of COVID-19 on the people and places I love, I am delighted to see Verizon stepping up to take charge in this situation. To date, Verizon’s total commitments to fighting COVID-19 (via donations to global nonprofits, contributions to healthcare campaigns, and programs like the Small Business Recovery Fund) total more than $54 million.
With the success of fundraising efforts like #PayItForwardLIVE, I have little doubt we’ll see Verizon hit its goal of an additional $100 million for the Rapid Relief & Resiliency Fund.
We’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to supporting diverse business: female entrepreneurs, LGBTQ+ business owners, community organizations that support at-risk and underserved youth. But in a world where “too little, too late” can literally spell the downfall of a business owner’s dreams and livelihood, it’s refreshing to see an industry giant take steps toward good–and take steps to protect their customers, rather than finding ways to protect the company’s profits.
To donate to the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund or the LISC Rapid Relief & Resilience Fund, visit Verizon’s online COVID-19 resource database here.
To learn more about LISC’s loan and grant options, visit their website and sign up for updates on the next application cycle for grants from the Small Business Recovery Fund.
Hear from the first round of grant recipients in this video from Verizon:
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