The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today launched its new Community Navigator Pilot Program, a new initiative under the American Rescue Plan designed to reach the nation's smallest businesses,
SBA said the new initiative prioritizes focus on those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as women and veterans.
SBA will accept applications through July 12, 2021, and anticipates making award decisions by August 2021.
“The Community Navigator Pilot Program is a crucial addition to our SBA programs because it helps us to connect with small businesses that have historically been underserved or left behind," said SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. "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."
Guzman said SBA will be using a hub and spoke model in local regions across the nation to bridge the gap between local entrepreneurs and SBA’s resources and programs.
"If we’re going to build back better, we need to ensure that all entrepreneurs have the support they need to recover," she added,
In February 2021, Congress met to provide a blueprint on assistance to small businesses with provisions under the American Rescue Plan. Members of Congress met with constituents to discover at local levels, the impact of the pandemic and the effect it is having on businesses that may have been left out in early rounds of relief.
“I’ve spoken to small businesses in every corner of Arizona. 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,” said Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona.
"It’s why I fought to include the Community Navigator Program in the American Rescue Plan because it will help meet Arizona small businesses right in their communities, including providing assistance for Spanish-speakers, and get them the relief they need to keep their doors open and workers on payroll.”
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.
Selected partners will engage in targeted outreach for small businesses in underserved communities to help small businesses get the resources and support they need to get back on track as the economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The SBA understands the importance of partnering with organizations as well as smaller, local institutions that are already embedded in the fabric of the Main Street business communities they serve,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership Natalie Madeira Cofield. “Community Navigators are the backbone of aiding underserved and underrepresented communities across the nation with recovery.”
SBA said key in this initiative are partners and people in the community, serving as a two-way information stream, enabling enterprising business owners to receive the help needed from the SBA. Serving as the foundation of America’s economy, these underserved businesses have areas of concern that need to be addressed. Community Navigator Pilot will provide counseling, networking, and the assistance needed during this time of economic recovery.
Competitive grant awards will range from $1 million to $5 million for a two-year performance period. Applicants have until July 12 to submit their applications at grants.gov. Performance periods are projected to commence in September 2021. Those eligible to apply must meet and demonstrate abilities to support the requirements of this funding opportunity.