Mountain BizWorks has been awarded a $4,015,719 Equitable Recovery Program Grant from the US Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). The CDFI Equitable Recovery Program is designed to provide funding to CDFIs to expand lending, grant making and investment activities in low- to moderate-income communities and borrowers that have experienced disproportionate economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of $1.73 billion in grants were awarded by the CDFI Fund to 603 CDFIs nationwide to catalyze growth in their financial and organizational capacity to carry out equitable recovery activities.
As a predominantly rural region, Western North Carolina faced steep challenges in access to capital, broadband, and other essential resources prior to the pandemic, and these were exacerbated during the pandemic. Roughly 90% of the region’s census tracts were rated as “Severe COVID Impact/Low Community Resilience” by a US Treasury analysis.
The award will help Mountain BizWorks address systemic access-to-capital issues that predated the pandemic and were magnified during the pandemic, and to do so in a manner that aids ongoing recovery needs as well as positions communities for long term resilience. The strategy includes new lending, targeted grants, as well as organizational capacity development. Over the five-year period, the award is expected to result in $10 million in new small business financing and with a focus on small businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue, and especially on those with less than $100K in revenue. Mountain BizWorks is also aiming for at least one-third of the new financing to benefit businesses of color.
Matt Raker, Mountain BizWorks’ Executive Director, frames the award in terms of the resilience it’s designed to foster. “While we’ve seen unprecedented impacts from COVID-19 and ongoing challenges, we’ve also seen that the pandemic has sparked a surge in new entrepreneurial activity,” he shared. “In our work, we’re also seeing a particular rise in demand from entrepreneurs of color and from rural communities that have been most impacted. We’ve provided over $67 million in recovery funding over the past two years, including $6 million in grants. This grant will provide critically-needed continued support, and we look forward to deploying it within Western North Carolina.”
For more information about the award, visit cdfifund.gov/news.