These 6 resources are offering free help and funds for small businesses

Posted at 8:49 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 10:49:56-04

Small business owners are still scrambling to find and apply for financial aid and figure out how best to survive this pandemic-induced economic downturn.

And, of course, most can't afford help from expensive lawyers, accountants and business consultants.

The following resources and initiatives are designed to help them with all of that...for free. They provide wide-ranging lists of grants and loans from the private and public sectors, and provide small business owners with one-on-one consultations, tools and other support.

1. More than $710 billion in Covid19-related grants and loans is a searchable database for entrepreneurs of cash relief resources across the world, including an extensive list of options in the United States. Currently, it has over 500 listings worth more than $710 billion.

It was created by the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

The information is updated daily and is crowdsourced from the school's direct networks, LinkedIn groups and social media, said the Center's faculty director Cathy Clark.

2. Private and public sector aid, with a special focus on minority-owned businesses

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a community development nonprofit, has created a Rapid Relief & Resiliency Fund to give $10,000 grants and other assistance to US small businesses hurt by the coronavirus crisis. The fund is built on donations from corporations, foundations and others, including Sam's Club, the Walmart Foundation and Verizon.

While all small businesses are free to apply and can get grants, the organization is especially interested in funding women- and minority-owned businesses as well as small businesses operating in low-income and rural areas, said CEO Maurice Jones.

Besides financing grants, donations are also used to support community-based nonprofits that provide free business, legal and accounting services to small businesses.

3. Free legal consultations

The Lawyers for Good Government Foundation, working in conjunction with local small business nonprofits, has begun offering pro bono legal consultations for small business owners in cities and states across the country.

It is now operating clinics in the Detroit metro area, New York City and the states of Florida, North Carolina and Washington. The plan is to open up in other areas soon.

The program, which also helps nonprofits, is aimed primarily at very small businesses -- in New York, for instance, only those with 100 or fewer employees qualify. But each location will decide how small a company must be.

Small business owners seeking help will include their most pressing coronavirus-related legal questions on an intake form so they can be paired with a lawyer who has expertise in those areas. In addition to doing the remote consultations, lawyers will also direct pro bono clients to further resources.

Small business owners interested in being notified of when a legal clinic will open near them can fill out their contact information here.

4. Free business strategy consultation

The program SCORE, which is funded in part by the Small Business Administration, has been around for more than 50 years and includes a network of 10,000 volunteer mentors who are current or retired business owners and experts in key business and industry-specific topics.

The mentors are available for free, remote consultations -- as many as needed -- for any small business owner. They're currently helping businesses out with a lot of Covid-19-related questions and concerns, including how best to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program loans and the economic injury disaster grants offered by the federal government, and figuring out how best to use the funds, if approved.

If a small business is not approved for any federal aid, SCORE will help it figure out next steps, including alternate sources of funding.

5. Free interactive tools to determine PPP loan eligibility

While the second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program is running down, if you still haven't applied and lawmakers approve another round of funding, Intuit Aid Assistcan help you figure out whether you qualify for a forgivable PPP loan or an economic injury disaster loan from the SBA. It also helps you assess how much money to apply for and how much of the PPP loan would not have to be repaid.

Intuit said it will not be collecting data on small businesses that use the tool. "Information is stored locally on the user's browser only," Bharath Kadaba, Intuit's chief innovation officer, said in an email.

Business owner Sean Wolfington applied and secured PPP loans for several of his companies, but not without real frustrations. So he decided to create a free PPP planning tool to help fellow business owners avoid the roadblocks he encountered. His interactive planner includes calculators and tips, including on how owners can figure out how much of their loans will be forgiven. But since the Treasury and the SBA have still not given entirely clear final guidance on the details of forgiveness, double-check the information with your lender who will have the latest updates.

6. A campaign to get clients to pay small businesses faster

Small businesses need money right now to keep their doors open. Yes, federal and state aid will be critical. But it also would be a huge and immediate help to just be paid by clients for work they've already completed.

Fundbox, a business-to-business payments processor and small business lender, estimates that on any given day there is $900 billion owed to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

One business owner told CNN Business his cash reserves would increase by a month if he just got paid for the jobs his firm has already finished. Typically, small business clients make final payments 30 days or more after a job is done.

That's why Fundbox and other companies serving small businesses launched a campaign called #paytoday to encourage big companies and government agencies to accelerate their payments to small business vendors.

Companies can make their pledge public by joining the #paytoday club here.

--CNN's Cristina Alesci contributed to this report


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