By Communities Unlimited, RCAC and HOPE
For residents of Raymondville, Texas (population: 11,284), Wing Champs is more than a place to go for delicious wings — it’s a gathering place for the community and as one of the largest restaurants in town, an important source of employment. Nearly 50% of U.S. workers are employed by small businesses. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical for businesses like Wing Champs and their communities to receive the support they need to withstand the crisis. Partners for Rural Transformation is working together to ensure small businesses that bring employment and vibrancy to rural communities get the loans and capital they need now.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress approved billions of dollars in federal funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an initiative intended to help banks make guaranteed loans to small businesses to cover payroll expenses amidst hardships related to COVID-19. However, structural barriers within the legislation put small businesses, particularly those in areas of persistent poverty and those owned by people of color, at a distinct disadvantage when seeking PPP funding. Banking options are more limited in these areas as well.
Under the CARES Act, businesses with 500 employees or fewer are categorized as “small businesses” – meaning businesses like Wing Champs, a Latino-owned restaurant with 32 employees, are competing for funding with large companies across the country. With strong ties to financial institutions, these larger businesses had banking relationships in place to secure PPP funding fast. For the smallest businesses, particularly those in areas of persistent poverty and those owned by people of color, the same treatment wasn’t afforded to the owners. Many persistent poverty counties lack banking options and, when a bank is present, the PPP gives preference to existing and larger customers. Very small businesses also face barriers in securing the time and assistance needed from banks to understand the program and gather all of the documentation required to apply for PPP funding. Simply put, a significant portion of entrepreneurs of color do not have the existing one-on-one relationships or access needed to receive loans from mainstream banks and other existing Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.
In the first PPP round, guarantee funds ran out before small businesses could get in line. The CARES Act gives large businesses a leg up by allowing franchises in the hospitality industry with less than 500 employees per physical location to use the individual locations to apply for up to $10 million in PPP funding. This left Wing Champs and other small businesses around the country waiting, waiting to hear back from their bank.
Communities Unlimited saw too many of its clients waiting for weeks to hear back about their PPP loan application, only to be informed the funding had run out. To prepare for the second funding round, Communities Unlimited joined forces with Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and Hope Enterprise Corporation / Hope Credit Union (HOPE) to cut through the red tape and get critical PPP funding to small businesses in persistent poverty counties as soon as possible.
As Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) authorized by the SBA to make PPP loans, RCAC and HOPE quickly raised philanthropic capital to actively support small businesses through the program. With on-the-ground connections to small business owners of color throughout the southern United States, Communities Unlimited’s entrepreneurship team identified qualifying businesses to refer to RCAC and HOPE and helped owners prepare the documents needed to apply for the loans. Thanks to this partnership, Communities Unlimited’s clients received approval on their loans within two to three days. The quick process helped these small businesses continue to pay their employees and keep the lights on. In fact, before Wing Champs even heard back from the initial lender they contacted during the first round of funding, RCAC got the business approved for a $62,734 PPP loan.
To date, Communities Unlimited has secured $408,725 in PPP funding through HOPE and RCAC for 25 clients, with four still in the pipeline and more to come. The partnership between these organizations is just one example of how the Partners are coming together during the pandemic to support one another and their communities. To learn more, check out the Partners’ case study “Response to COVID-19 Pandemic” or drop us a line at email@example.com.