Nonprofit microfinance organization Grameen Puerto Rico is bringing together leading financial institutions and other partners to galvanize investment in local low-income women entrepreneurs in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane María last year.
During a three-day convening, April 18–20, current and prospective investors will discuss how to support entrepreneurship among low-income women on the island, which will help families and communities rebuild and boost the local economy.
The organization hopes to raise $3 million, which will enable them to disburse 7,700 microloans and serve an additional 2,500 women in Puerto Rico over the next few years.
“Women small business owners in Puerto Rico can play a big part in the recovery efforts,” said Andrea Jung, president of Grameen America.
“If we invest in them — give them the capital they need to move forward with their businesses — we will help them rebuild their lives, their livelihoods, and their communities,” she said.
Grameen America — the fastest growing microfinance organization in the United States — opened its San Juan branch in 2013.
Since then it has disbursed more than $9.4 million in microloans to more than 2,800 low-income women entrepreneurs throughout San Juan, including in La Perla, Barrio Obrero, Barrio Caimito, Llorens Torres, Campo Alegre, Barrio Palmas, and Cantera.
Hurricane María caused a brief pause in the disbursement of loans, but three weeks after the storm hit, Grameen Puerto Rico relaunched operations in San Juan, suspended interest on all outstanding loans for the rest of the year, and extended the repayment time period.
The organization is putting together a consortium of local foundations and investors to advance its work in Puerto Rico, where it says “there is dire need for investment.”
“Even before Hurricane María, nearly half of the island’s 3.3 million inhabitants lived in poverty. Currently, Puerto Rico faces an 11 percent unemployment rate,” the nonprofit stated.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40-60 percent of small businesses do not reopen after a disaster.
Helping women to rebuild or start new small businesses in Puerto Rico could have significant impact in creating jobs and reviving the local economy, Grameen stated.