Looking to help small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the island that had not reopened after last year’s hurricanes, the Foundation for Puerto Rico established the Small Business Cash Grant Program, helping 200 establishments in 11 towns, through a $500,000 investment.
The nonprofit confirmed that 93 percent of the businesses supported through the initiative remain in operation.
“The encouraging results we are announcing about the impact that providing capital and technical assistance has on small- and medium-sized businesses obliges us to incorporate specific support as an integral part of our programs,” said Foundation for Puerto Rico President Annie Mayol.
“We will continue to expand the scope of this aid through the island in alliance with the ecosystem and communities,” she said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that between 40 percent and 60 percent of small businesses do not reopen after an emergency, while another 25 percent fail within one year of an event like Hurricane María.
Also, as part of a study about the program, a survey was conducted among participating businesses, which concluded that the Foundation for Puerto Rico’s assistance helped 91 percent of businesses to stay open, while helping others increase sales, hire employees and increase their hours of service, among others.
On the other hand, 51 percent of businesses reported that they have experienced a decline in sales compared to the same time last year, while on average, businesses are still operating with 20 percent to 25 percent fewer employees than before the emergency.
“This data validates how assertive it was to have expanded the program and the need to continue supporting small- and medium-sized businesses, as many still face difficulties in returning to the pre-María levels,” said Arnaldo Cruz the nonprofit’s director of research and analysis.
Also, when asked what their most urgent obstacle at present, 66 percent of business owners said they did not have enough local customers, 60 percent said they receive almost no visitors, 55 percent mentioned the difficulty of getting the necessary goods, 50 percent spoke of barriers to insurance, 42 percent commented on the difficulty of access to financing, and 41 percent said employee retention has become a problem.
The Small Business Cash Grant Program was implemented in Aguadilla (Highway # 10) Cabo Rojo (Boquerón and Joyuda), Culebra, Humacao (Punta Santiago), Isabela, Juncos, Orocovis (Longaniza Route and town square), Ponce ( square) and San Juan (Calle Loíza, Santurce.)
Program expansion and scope
Recently, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded $5.58 million to Foundation for Puerto Rico to expand the Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative to 24 communities in 12 municipalities in the coming years, nonprofit officials said.
The organization estimates the business assistance component will support 300 businesses, create 72 new businesses, 816 people will benefit from technical assistance, and 1,116 jobs will be generated, among other things.
To achieve this, Foundation for Puerto Rico announced alliances with ecosystem organizations including the Center for Entrepreneurship, Banco Popular Foundation, Grupo Guayacán and Kiva Puerto Rico to improve and accelerate the technical assistance that is offered to small- and medium- businesses.
Finally, Foundation for Puerto Rico announced the start of a crowdfunding campaign through the GoFundMe platform to reach another 300 businesses islandwide. Through this initiative, the nonprofit aims to raise $240,000 for businesses to become resilient and expand. Sam’s Club became the project’s first partner by donating $10,000.