COVID Relief for Minority-Owned Small Businesses
It’s October and half of that money has gone nowhere.
ATLANTA – More than three months ago, the Fulton County Commission gave two banks $ 5 million each in COVID relief funds from the U.S. Small Business Bailout.
It is now October and half of that money has gone nowhere.
In late June, the Fulton County Commission targeted two minority banks, Loyal Trust of Johns Creek, to reach Asian small businesses with relief funds, and the Unity National Bank of Atlanta to meet the needs of African American small businesses.
But the banks handled it differently.
Loyal Trust President Rose Jarboe wasted no time putting the money to work.
“We added it to our general fund mainly to be used for small businesses, like PPP,” she explained.
Jarboe added that Loyal Trust has followed the Commission’s resolution – allowing the funds to go to any small minority-owned business in Fulton County. So far it has disbursed 20 loans.
“Our primary market is within the community within a radius of 20 miles or so,” Jarboe said. When asked if this would include Atlanta, she said “yes, absolutely”.
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But at Unity National Bank, Director George Andrews had a different, more inclusive agenda to double the loan pool he already had.
While actively pursuing it, he admits that he kept the $ 5 million from the commission in the bank’s general loan fund, not processing any loans since July to minority-owned small businesses.
This surprised African-American small business owners like Zak Wallace, owner of Local Green Restaurant near western Atlanta, and Gina Palmer, owner of She Salon.
“For the moment, the funding is still available, we need to get it out as quickly as possible. The word must get out. We need the money now, ”Wallace said.
“During COVID, we used up our personal savings in order to keep our doors open and now we could actually use the money to employ more people and bring back our staff. I had to reinvent the living room, ”added Palmer.
Andrews said his plan was to combine commission funds with a segregated fund with an additional $ 5.4 million from Select Fulton, another county agency, into a loan pool of more than $ 10 million for them. minority companies.
Now, more than three months after his bank first received the $ 5 million commission, research from 11Alive showed Andrews’ plan to combine the funds fell flat, as the two funds had different ground rules and could not be combined. Commissions can be loaned anywhere in the county while Select Fulton funds are reserved for Fulton communities outside of the city of Atlanta.
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Andrews later told 11Alive that he was wrong in combining the funds and now understands that he cannot mix the money.
However, he said he was coming back with a bigger plan that he hopes might work.
Andrews is now asking Select Fulton for $ 20 million to provide “direct loans and targeted employment programs” to African American communities in underserved counties.
But the reality now is that Andrews is only armed with the $ 5 million commission in his general loan fund and after a wait of more than three months he said Unity National now offers small loans. eligible African-American businesses.
We will have an update as this relief money is processed and made available to African American small businesses.