Fund focuses on post-pandemic support for small businesses in FL


By Jonah Chester, Florida News Connection

As Florida and other southern states recover from the financial impact of the pandemic, a program aims to ensure small businesses aren’t left behind.

The Opportunity and resilience of the South (SOAR) Fund provides low-interest loans and free advice to businesses in under-banked communities, primarily in the southern states.

Arturo Griego, owner and principal architect of G3, a design-build company in Miami, said SOAR will help his business continue to grow over the coming year.

“It certainly helped us to finish and put ourselves in a position where we are currently able to work more,” said Griego.

The program is available to businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer full-time employees that have experienced economic disruption due to the pandemic. It currently operates in 15 states and Washington, DC

So far, the initiative has distributed $ 11 million to nearly 250 small businesses. About 80% of participants identify as a business owned by a woman or a person of color.

Caroline Yarbrough, chief strategy officer at Calvert Impact Capital, which works with the SOAR Fund, said the project would help small businesses in Florida exploit new economic opportunities.

“The southern region has a tremendous amount of economic opportunity,” Yarbrough said. “But was one of the places in the United States with the lowest economic mobility.”

While the program is open to businesses with up to fifty employees, 90% of SOAR Fund loans so far have gone to businesses with ten or fewer full-time workers.

Requirements for a small business

To be eligible for a SOAR Fund loan, a small business must meet the requirements detailed below. Please note that the pre-application must be completed and submitted by the business owner with the highest participation, and all owners with more than 20% ownership will be required to attest to the information provided.

The following criteria are the minimum required for a business or non-profit organization to be eligible for a loan under this program:

  • The business or non-profit organization must employ 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees or less;
  • The business or non-profit organization must have suffered a direct economic disruption as a result of COVID-19 in a way that has had a significant impact on its operations;
  • The business or non-profit organization must have been in operation for at least September 2019, unless the business is a for-profit business and meets one of the following additional criteria:
    • The company can demonstrate three or more years of operational experience in the industry through previous ownership or management; Where
    • The business has already borrowed from the community lender and had no repayment issues
  • The Community Lender will collect financial information from each business or nonprofit organization and its beneficial owners and / or guarantors and underwrite based on the lender’s credit criteria, which vary by lender. The lender’s credit criteria often include, but are not limited to:
  • The ability of the business or association (or its guarantor) to fully repay the loan;
  • The ability to make debt payments from income;
  • The history of the business or non-profit organization (or its guarantor) in matters of bankruptcy, delinquency, foreclosure or repossession;
  • If there are any tax liens or judgments pending against the business or nonprofit organization, and / or its guarantor (s) or beneficial owner (s)

No minimum credit score is required under this program, but please note that each community lender may set their own credit score limits for the loan applications they review.

Non-eligible companies

Businesses that are NOT eligible include, but are not limited to:

  • Businesses engaged in activities prohibited by federal law or applicable law in the jurisdiction in which the business is located or carried on
  • Company owned franchises
  • Bank branches
  • Payday Loan Stores
  • Pawn shop
  • Astrology, palm reading
  • Adult bookstores, strip clubs
  • Track compensation facilities

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