As the COVID-19 pandemic has financially strained businesses across multiple sectors these past six months, a local nonprofit has launched targeted grants with a focus on minority-owned companies.

The United Way of Greater Charlottesville is currently accepting applications through Sep. 15 for its COVID recovery grant that will award five businesses up to $10,000 and a five year membership in the Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Alliance.

“It’s not just a matter of having a grant, it’s a matter of networking in the community to make sure that the people who need it most are aware that those grants exist,” said United Way president Ravi Respeto.

Beyond the immediate financial support of the grant, participation in the Chamber’s MBA can help with networking and mutual support. 

Respeto also noted the particular impact COVID has had on certain communities in Charlottesville as inspiration for this targeted round of grants. 

“Once COVID hit we saw just a huge financial tsunami that hit our community — primarily for people in the service community — but also disproportionately affecting Black families, LatinX families. We knew we wanted to take action,” Respeto said. 

Businesses interested in applying must be solely or over 50% minority-owned. They should be located within Charlottesville and Albemarle County, have been in business for at least a year and not currently in the process of shutting down. Eligible businesses are encountering annual net revenues of less than $250,000 or less than $500,000 if employing at least three full-time positions. 

Overall, Barbara Hutchinson, vice president of community impact, says the grant will be “low barrier.” 

According to Hutchinson, part of lacking access to capital stems from lack of generational wealth building. Oftentimes, minority-owned businesses can’t rely on a loan or investment from family or friends when starting their business or facing challenges like COVID-19. 

Hutchinson says applicants will need to “be able to articulate how COVID has impacted their business and how they can use the funds” in their application. 

“They don’t have to upload lots of documents or anything like that. It’s meant to be something to give people quick access to cash to further their stability,” she explained. 

Meanwhile, awarded applicants will need to provide a report after 6 months with updates on how the grant money was utilized for their business. 

A link to the grant application can be found here.