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Fund focuses on post-pandemic support for FL small businesses

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As Florida and other southern states recover from the financial impact of the pandemic, one program aims to ensure small businesses are not left behind.

The Southern Opportunity and Resilience (SOAR) Fund offers low-interest loans and free advice to businesses in underbanked communities, mostly in southern states.

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

"It certainly helped us finish and get into a position where we're right now able to take more work," Griego explained.

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

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

Caroline Yarbrough, strategy officer at Calvert Impact Capital, which works with the SOAR Fund, said the project will help small Florida businesses tap into new economic possibilities.

"The region of the South has an enormous amount of economic opportunity," Yarbrough pointed out. "But has been one of the places in the U.S. that has the lowest economic mobility."

While the program is open to businesses with up to fifty employees, 90% of the 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 should be completed and submitted by the owner of the business with the largest ownership interest, and that all owners with more than 20% ownership will be required to attest to the information provided. 

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

  • The business or non-profit must employ 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees;
  • The business or non-profit must have suffered a direct economic disruption as a result of COVID-19 in a way that has materially impacted operations;
  • The business or non-profit must have been in operation since at least September 2019, unless the business is a for-profit business and meets one of the following additional criteria:
    • The business can demonstrate three or more years of operating experience in the industry through previous ownership or management; or
    • The business has previously borrowed from the community lender and has had no repayment issues
  • The community lender will collect financial information from each business or non-profit and its beneficial owner(s) and/or guarantor(s) and underwrite based upon the lender’s credit criteria, which vary based on lender.  Lender credit criteria often includes but may not be limited to:
  • The business or non-profit’s (or its guarantor) ability to pay back the loan in full;
  • The ability to make debt payments from revenues;
  • The business or non-profit’s (or its guarantor) history of bankruptcy, delinquency, foreclosure or repossession;
  • Whether there are any outstanding tax liens or judgments against the business or non-profit, and/or its guarantor(s) or beneficial owner(s)

There is no minimum credit score that is required under this program, but please note that each community lender may set its own credit score limits for the loan applications it reviews.

Ineligible businesses

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

  • Firms engaged in activities that are prohibited by federal law or applicable law in the jurisdiction where the business is located or conducted
  • Corporate-owned franchises
  • Branch banks
  • Pay day loan stores
  • Pawn shops
  • Astrology, palm reading
  • Adult bookstores, strip clubs
  • Track waging facilities

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