The Urban League of Louisiana, in partnership with the Foundation for Louisiana, recently announced the launch of the Black Business Works Fund, an initiative to assist Black-owned businesses impacted by Hurricane Ida.
Urban League of Louisiana President & CEO Judy Reese Morse was joined by Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League; Flozell Daniels, president & CEO of Foundation for Louisiana; and Vera Warren-Williams, founder and owner of Community Book Center, to announce the Fund’s launch and encourage struggling businesses to apply.
Black-owned businesses located in federally declared disaster areas can apply for $2,500 micro-grants. Federally declared disaster areas include Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemine, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John The Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana.
A highlight of today’s announcement was a $200,000 donation to the Fund from the National Urban League, made possible by support from Mastercard and AT&T. Donations from the Chicago Community Trust ($250,000), Shell ($30,000) and the Schultz Family Foundation ($20,000), brings the Fund’s total to $500,000 as it launches its efforts to support the sustainability of Black-owned businesses in Louisiana.
“Hurricane Ida was devastating for Black entrepreneurs and business owners, who already were facing historic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the systemic and institutional barriers that pre-dated the crisis,” says Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League. “I’m proud of the important work Judy Reese Morse and the Urban League of Louisiana are doing to support our brothers and sisters who are struggling, and of our longtime partners AT&T and Mastercard who are working to break down these barriers and build a more inclusive, resilient economy that works for everyone.”
Hurricane Ida has exacerbated existing challenges faced by Black-owned businesses. These challenges, including lack of access to capital and operating businesses concentrated in the industries immediately impacted by disasters and health crises, disproportionately affect business owners of color and can be crippling or the cause of a business’ demise. The Black Business Works Fund was established to provide critical dollars that can serve as a lifeline for businesses struggling to survive.
While the $2500 micro grants might seem small, Morial says they are important for small Black-owned businesses to get some financial relief without going into debt. He sees the micro grants as an investment in the businesses, not as gifts.
“We are deeply grateful to the National Urban League for its major gift to the Black Business Works Fund,” says Judy Reese Morse. “This major gift will support small businesses at a time when they need resources to stand back up and be stronger on the other side of the storm. As a member of the National Urban League’s 92-member affiliate network, we understand well the disparities that exist for Black-owned businesses. We are proud to be a part of the effort fighting for racial and economic equity and justice for all.”
The leaders say that the application process has been streamlined so that businesses will not have to complete mountains of paperwork for the micro-grants. In addition to having been in business for a year, applicants will have to provide identification as well as some details on how they might use the grant, says Klassi Duncan, vice president of the Urban League of Louisiana’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, adding that the goal is to get approved applicants funded within seven to 10 days.
“Black-led businesses are a vital part of Louisiana’s unique social and cultural landscape,” says Flozell Daniels. “Through the Black Business Works Fund, Foundation for Louisiana commits to keeping the social and cultural fabric of Southeast Louisiana alive. We hope to keep Black business owners rooted in their communities, and to keep the families of their employees in their homes.”
Businesses can apply online at urbanleaguela.org/fund and foundationforlouisiana.org. The Black Business Works Fund is now accepting applications and will make grant awards on a rolling basis, as funds are available.
While Morse and Daniels say their organizations will actively seek other major corporate donations for the Fund, Daniel stresses that smaller donations from individuals and entities are encouraged.
To show support for the sustainability of Black-owned businesses, donate to the Black Business Works Fund at urbanleaguela.org/fund or foundationforlouisiana.org.