This year during National Small Business Week, we at LISC are reflecting on what the past 18 months have taught us about supporting entrepreneurs in underinvested places and communities of color—and where we go from here.

We know that small businesses, which took an immediate and devastating hit from COVID, are the lifeblood of local economies and communities. But also saw how BIPOC- and women-owned businesses were extra vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic, suffering sharper revenue declines and closures.

This was due in part to their prevalence in hard-hit industries, most with thin margins, such as food, services, and retail trade. But also to longstanding racial and gender discrimination that has resulted in historically inadequate banking relationships and the added obstacle of little or no access to technical support to help plan, capitalize, market and grow their businesses.

To combat this trend, since March of 2020, LISC has disbursed nearly $83 million in small business relief and resiliency grants through our national distribution platform to more than 6,300 business owners, throughout urban and rural America. And when we count the grants distributed through our network of 38 local offices, and the partner funding that made that possible, the totals reach an extraordinary $240 million disbursed to 16,000 small businesses to date.

Of our national grants, more than 89 percent went to businesses owned by people of color, and to more than 66 percent owned by women. Two out of three of those businesses operate in communities designated as “distressed,” meaning they are made up of majority low- to moderate-income households.

All this, in addition to $215.5 million in low-interest small business loans that went to nearly 2,200 enterprises extended through LISC’s lending services.

As we work to support entrepreneurs’ survival and equitable recovery—one that will see BIPOC- and women-owned businesses in a stronger position than they were before we ever heard of COVID—we are asking for their feedback. And what we’ve learned thus far has already significantly shaped how we are strategizing and investing as we move forward.

Read the full article about community-rooted small businesses by Bill Taft at LISC.