Community Lenders Announce Fund to Support Small Businesses, Nonprofits
NEW ORLEANS – A diverse group of community finance organizations have announced the Southern Opportunity and Resilience (SOAR) Fund, which aims to raise $150 million to provide affordable capital and free business support to small businesses and nonprofits in 15 southern and southeastern states to help them navigate the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.
Community lenders in the South say they created the SOAR Fund to provide economic recovery loans to small businesses in their communities at a time when they are facing unprecedented health and economic challenges. The loans are designed to reach the smallest of small businesses and those that have been historically underbanked – the type of businesses that this coalition of lenders have been serving for decades. These businesses often struggle to access capital from traditional sources but are critical to providing jobs and supporting economic recovery in communities across the South.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already uneven recovery from the Great Recession. Southern states had slower economic growth, lower labor force participation, and higher unemployment than the rest of the country, partially driven by the historic lack of corporate and philanthropic investment in the region,” said George Ashton, managing director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which manages the Fund. “The SOAR Fund, with support from leading banks, foundations, and corporations, will tackle these issues head-on by addressing structural barriers to economic opportunity by providing capital to Southern small businesses and nonprofits that need it now.”
The portal for small businesses is scheduled to open in April and will offer flexible, affordable loans of up to $100,000 to small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 full-time employees. The Fund replicates similar models that have succeeded in New York and California by working with and through local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
All interested small business owners and nonprofits can review program eligibility, product terms, and indicate interest at www.TheSoarFund.org, which will notify business owners once the application portal is live. Once the application portal launches, eligible applicants will be matched with a participating lender that will assist the business owner with the application and provide advisory support.
Catalytic initial grants and loans are being provided by Capital One, Microsoft, the F.B. Heron Foundation, Fidelity Charitable with support from CapShift, the Heifer Foundation, Mercy Investment Services, Woodforest National Bank, Ceniarth, and the Jacksonville, Florida-based Chartrand Family.