Little Rock, Ark. – November 11, 2021 – Winrock International has received a $500,000 grant from the Visa Foundation to promote economic growth in the U.S. South and Southeast by helping small businesses access loan assistance from the Southern Opportunity and Resilience (SOAR) Fund. Through the Visa Foundation-funded SOAR Technical Assistance Project, Winrock and partners will provide support to small business owners seeking capital in seven of the 15 states served by the SOAR Fund: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.
All small businesses in these seven states that have been impacted by COVID and have fewer than 50 employees are eligible for assistance. SOAR Fund loans are designed to reach the smallest of small businesses as well as those that have been historically underbanked, including those in rural areas and those owned by women, people of color and immigrants. These businesses often struggle to access capital from traditional sources but are critical to providing jobs and supporting economic recovery in communities across the South.
“With funding from the Visa Foundation, we will improve access to the unique loan opportunities presented by the SOAR Fund,” said Linsley Kinkade, Winrock’s senior director of U.S. Programs. “The target is primarily those business owners who want to connect to SOAR Fund lenders, but who haven’t been able to, yet. The grant will help us better serve those small business owners by helping them strategize, plan and document how they would use a SOAR loan. We can provide technical assistance to revise and resubmit loan applications if necessary, as well as support to overcome other business-related barriers to obtaining loans to help these businesses survive, adapt and thrive.”
Calvert Impact Capital’s SOAR Fund was created in early 2021 through a partnership of local and national community lenders to provide economic recovery loans to small businesses in the South and Southeast. The Fund has drawn interest from hundreds of small businesses in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia. Yet as of mid-2021, of the 649 small businesses that applied for loans through SOAR, more than 280 were still awaiting a match with participating SOAR Fund lenders. The Visa Foundation funding is aimed at helping Winrock and partners address some of the issues contributing to that backlog, in part by speeding up the matching process and providing other assistance.
“We are excited to support Winrock’s work with the SOAR Fund to enable equitable access to capital at scale for historically underserved small businesses,” said Graham Macmillan, Visa Foundation President. “The Fund’s approach of providing patient and affordable financing alongside technical assistance will help generate growth and resilience among small businesses and the communities they serve.”
In addition to increasing the success rate of businesses applying for SOAR Fund loans, the SOAR Technical Assistance Project aims to increase public awareness of the fund’s goals and functions, and how it can help under-resourced small businesses that have historically faced difficulties accessing traditional loans. This work will include analysis of businesses’ needs and gaps, assisting with loan application preparedness and processes, credit counseling, business plan development, accounting and finance, and other support that prepares businesses to be loan-ready and successful SOAR Fund applicants.
The SOAR Fund’s partners continue to identify and welcome new donors to deliver critical technical assistance to help entrepreneurs and nonprofits create jobs, expand services and drive growth in traditionally underbanked parts of the country. Potential donors and interested small business owners and nonprofits are encouraged to explore possibilities and learn more about the program including eligibility, terms, application processes, and other information at Connect2Capital.com.
ABOUT VISA FOUNDATION
Visa Foundation seeks to support inclusive economies where individuals, businesses, and communities can thrive. Through grant making and investing, Visa Foundation prioritizes the growth of gender diverse and inclusive small and micro businesses. The Foundation also supports broader community needs and disaster response in times of crisis. Visa Foundation is registered in the U.S. as a 501(c)3 entity.