As businesses look to COVID-19 reopening and recovery, Commerce announces new public-private Flex Fund loan program for Washington small businesses and nonprofits
Program works with and through trusted local lending institutions to support historically underserved businesses
OLYMPIA, WA — Small business owners and nonprofits across Washington can start applying today for low interest loans of up to $150,000 through the newly-launched Small Business Flex Fund. The Fund is a public-private partnership aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofits – particularly those in low-income communities – recover and grow as communities across the state reopen for business.
Gov. Jay Inslee in November 2020 approved a foundational investment of $30 million for the state Department of Commerce to create a recovery loan program. Commerce is partnering with several financial institutions and community-based organizations to lend $100 million or more to small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees and annual revenues of less than $3 million.
Qualifying businesses and nonprofits can apply for loans up to $150,000. Loans are available in 60- or 72-month loan terms at interest rates between 3-4.5%.
“Reopening our economy is an incredible milestone and we want to ensure that our smallest businesses and nonprofits have equitable access to flexible financial support to get back on their feet,” said Inslee. “The Small Business Flex Fund will not only aid in our businesses’ recovery from the pandemic, but it will allow them to plan ahead, grow and thrive. And this is a tool that will remain available over many years, to bolster our smallest businesses and nonprofit organizations in times of economic hardship.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic shone a bright light on many of the historic inequities and barriers facing different communities. One of those barriers is access to working capital for small businesses and nonprofits trying to develop and grow, especially those in low-income areas and led by women and people of color,” said Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “We designed the Small Business Flex Fund to provide more equitable access to growth capital for smaller, local businesses and nonprofits, ensuring a greater economic recovery for all of Washington.”
The Fund works with and through local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which serve under resourced communities and underbanked businesses the Small Business Flex Fund aims to help.
“Evergreen is proud to bring our decades of experience serving Washington’s small businesses to this effort. We believe this program will be a huge benefit to small businesses and nonprofits in Washington state,” said Patti Kibbe, CEO of Evergreen Business Capital Community Finance, a CDFI based in Seattle.
All small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and $3 million in annual revenue can apply and culturally-appropriate in-language assistance is available. Interested applicants pre-apply on the Flex Fund’s online portal and, if they qualify, will be matched with a lender. Once matched, the participating lender will assist the business owner throughout the application process and provide additional advisory support. If a business doesn’t qualify, they will be connected to a trusted community organization that can assist with finding other resources.
Five CDFIs are originating loans for the Fund, including Ascendus, Business Impact NW, Craft3, Evergreen Business Capital Community Finance, and the National Development Council Community Impact Loan Fund. This network of lenders has decades of experience serving Indigenous, rural, and immigrant communities as well as communities of color across Washington.
The CDFIs will also be supported by leading technical assistance and business support organizations including Business Impact Northwest’s Washington Women’s Business Center and Veterans Business Outreach Center, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE), the Minority Business Development Agency – Tacoma Business Center, Sister Sky Inc., Ventures Nonprofit and Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) Financial Access.
The Small Business Flex Fund is administered by National Development Council with funding arranged by Calvert Impact Capital. In addition to funding from the Washington State Department of Commerce, catalytic initial loans are provided by Heritage Bank and WaFd Bank. In a joint statement they said, “As long-term supporters of Washington small businesses and the far-reaching influence they have in their communities, Heritage and WaFd Bank recognize the importance of supporting these vital businesses and are proud to promote unique public-private partnerships like the Small Business Flex Fund that assists in the continuing economic recovery from the impact of the pandemic.”
The Small Business Flex Fund’s online application and matching platform is hosted by Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, a national CDFI based in Minneapolis, MN.
For more information and to apply, visit: www.SmallBusinessFlexFund.org
About the Small Business Flex Fund
The Small Business Flex Fund provides access to flexible, low-interest loans and business support services to small businesses and nonprofits across Washington. Backed by the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Fund is a collaborative partnership of local and national community finance organizations created to support Washington’s smallest businesses and address the needs of historically under resourced and underbanked communities. The Fund includes leaders from across sectors including local community lenders, national and state-based nonprofit organizations, corporations, philanthropic donors, and investors – all who are passionate about an equitable recovery across the state.