INDIANAPOLIS — Because of the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on communities of color, the Indy Black Chamber, in partnership with Cummins, is stepping in to help. Together, they are providing loans to Black-owned businesses to help them recover from the pandemic.
“Our work never quite stopped but it did slow,” said La-Tisha Pirtle.
La-Tisha Pirtle owns MonaVation LLC, a general contracting company, doing both residential and commercial real estate construction work. She says the industry struggled during the pandemic.
“Because people just weren’t in the office and those construction projects were no longer a priority or even feasible for owners,” she said. “And so that definitely had a pretty significant impact in a year where we were projected to do double.”
Plus, Pirtle says the extra PPE costs and safety measures didn’t make things easier either.
“A lot of our work is done in very close quarters,” said Pirtle. “So that was a really interesting thing to kind of be juggling. Our primary concern is always safety right?”
Recognizing this, the Indy Black Chamber is stepping in in a major way, lending $200,000 in loans to Black-owned businesses to help them recover from the pandemic.
“For the Indy Black Chamber, this is something new to us,” said Greg Hicks, the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce's chief financial officer. “We’ve never provided loans out and this is an avenue that we always wanted to get to.”
Thanks to funding from Cummins, they have helped eight businesses, distributing six $30,000 loans and two $10,000 loans under their CARE Relief Recovery Loan Program.
“To some companies out there, that’s easy,” said Hicks. “That’s an easy process, going and getting a business loan. But especially to businesses of color, it’s not so easy.”
“Historically, Black and brown folks have a really hard time getting access to capital in small business,” said Pirtle. “Statistically speaking, Black women start more businesses than any other category of people, but we also are the least capitalized businesses. And so the opportunity that the Chamber presented for me was getting access to good, healthy capital because that is a huge challenge.”
A business owner in the community for nearly 10 years, Pirtle says this loan opportunity was a lifeline.
“Honestly, without being too dramatic, it means everything, really, because to know that our Chamber is committed to pouring into the Black business community, it makes all the difference,” said Pirtle. “It’s a real step forward for Black businesses in this community. It’s a true step forward.”
This is the Indy Black Chamber’s first experience with loan lending. They awarded the loans to a variety of different businesses that went through an application and underwriting process. Each business is obligated to repay the loan, which will allow the Chamber to recycle the funds to lend to additional businesses in the future.