Community Navigator Pilot Program Helps Smallest Businesses

small business owner

The Small Business Administration is accepting applications for a new $100 million competitive grant initiative

The Small Business Administration’s new Community Navigator Pilot Program will provide networking, counseling and other help for the nation’s smallest businesses. The initiative was established through the American Rescue Plan and gives priority to businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged people. 

The SBA will work with its resource partners along with state and local governments and other organizations to assist these businesses. Applications will be accepted through July 12. The SBA expects to announce who will receive the grants by August of this year.   

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman called the new initiative “a crucial addition to our SBA programs because it helps us to connect with small businesses that have historically been underserved or left behind. These businesses – the smallest of the small in rural and urban America, and those owned by women, people of color or veterans – have suffered the greatest economic loss from this pandemic.” 

In February Congress met to form guidelines for small business aid under the American Rescue Plan. U.S. lawmakers worked with their states and districts to learn which businesses missed out on early pandemic relief provided by the federal government. 

Through targeted outreach to small businesses in underserved communities, we can ensure that everyone is able to take advantage of the resources offered by the American Rescue Plan.

Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia

Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia said the Community Navigator Pilot Program will bring more equity to federal assistance for small business owners. “We have already seen the difficulties diverse communities face in accessing critically needed relief resources, from securing PPP funds to rental relief. Through targeted outreach to small businesses in underserved communities, we can ensure that everyone is able to take advantage of the resources offered by the American Rescue Plan.”

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly said many businesses in his state need help. “Far too many of them, especially tribal and minority-owned businesses and those in rural communities, have been unable to get the support they need,” he said. 

In announcing the program’s launch, a statement on the SBA website said the Community Navigator Notice of Funding Opportunity will be open to applications from nonprofit organizations; state, local, and tribal governments; SBA resource partners; and other organizations. Certain SBA partners will engage in targeted outreach for small businesses in underserved communities to help them receive the resources and support needed to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The competitive grant awards will be made in amounts of $1 million to $5 million and will carry a two-year performance period. You may apply at www.grants.gov. Performance periods are expected to start this September. Those eligible to apply must meet and demonstrate abilities to support the requirements of this funding opportunity.

Mark Madrid, SBA associate administrator for the Office for Entrepreneurial Development, said “small business owners—especially those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, people of color, women, veterans, and Native Americans – they need us the most, and they need us now. This initiative underscores our agency’s commitment to connecting distressed small-business resources with SBA resources and grant funding.”

Natalie Madeira Cofield, who is the SBA assistant administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, said the way the Community Navigator program will operate is significant – because it will work with organizations “already embedded in the fabric of the Main Street business communities they serve.” 

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