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How Women-Owned Businesses Can Get Help

By Rachel Sanborn Lawrence

First, the good news: Over the last five years, the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21%, with a total revenue of $1.9 trillion — and companies owned by Black and Latinx women grew at more than double that rate. That’s amazing.

But here’s what things look like right now: Most women-owned businesses are small businesses, which means that this pandemic will likely hit them harder. Couple that with the fact that they’re more likely to be denied small business loans and less likely to get venture capital funding … and women-owned businesses face an emergency even bigger than the overall economic crisis.

If you’re a business owner, I don’t need to tell you how tough these times feel. But I can tell you that there are options to help you get through it. Here are some of our recommendations to help you recover lost revenue, and some things you need to know as an employer.

Federal loans and grants

The Paycheck Protection Program

You’ve probably heard about the recently created Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan — and that it ran out of funds after two weeks. Congress approved an amendment to the stimulus package called the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. It adds $320 billion into this loan program.

Here’s how it works: The PPP is a low-interest-rate loan granted through the Small Business Administration (SBA). It’s intended to help you retain your employees and pay yourself, and keep the lights on (literally). If you use it according to the guidelines, the principal will be forgiven and you’ll only pay interest. However, you and your paid employees won’t be eligible for unemployment while you use the loan to cover paychecks.

Funds will likely run out quickly again, so file as soon as you can if you haven’t done so yet. (It could take some time, though, because there have been some glitches with the relaunch.) If you have to wait, you might want to consider forging a relationship with a bank now by applying for a small loan or line of credit outside of the PPP, or even just opening business banking accounts with lenders who have done SBA lending before — it could make the application process a little easier.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan

The recent amendment to the stimulus package also adds $60 billion to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. (If you’ve already applied, the SBA will continue processing your application on a first-come-first-served basis.)

This loan program is a disaster relief effort, and if your small business has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, you’re likely eligible. You can also apply for a loan of working capital up to $2 million or an “advance” of up to $10,000 on a disaster loan — but that $10K is really more of a grant, because it doesn’t need to be repaid.

If you already have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender, you can apply for an SBA Bridge Loan of up to $25,000. It’s meant to be a quick-turnaround way to access cash while you wait for your EIDL funds to come through, and will be repaid by proceeds from the EIDL loan.

Good to know

If you already have a 7(a), 504, or microloan through the SBA, they’ll automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees for six months.

Other loans and grants

This isn’t a comprehensive list of options, and things will likely change. But we checked all these and they’re still open (or have stated reopening dates) as of press time. We’ll regularly check back and update the list with more info as we find it.

For women

  • iFundWomen is providing COVID-19 relief grants — you’ll need to start a crowdfunding campaign through them to be considered for the grant.

  • Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s Red Backpack Fund is granting $5,000 each to 1,000 women entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19. The grant also includes free access to every Masterclass class. The current application window is open through May 11 at noon EDT — upcoming windows open June 1, July 6, and August 3.

  • Hello Alice is giving $10,000 grants to small business owners. Grant recipients will receive ongoing support from the Hello Alice community. (They also have a COVID-19 resource center for entrepreneurs.)

  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Verizon are giving grants of up to $10,000 to businesses affected by COVID-19 — particularly “entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses, and other enterprises in historically underserved communities who don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital.” The next application window opens May 14.

  • The Doonie Fund gives microloans of less than $500 each to Black women entrepreneurs.

  • EnrichHER can help you access direct loans and lines of credit up to $250,000

  • The Tory Burch Foundation connects women entrepreneurs to lenders in their community — these are not bound by pandemic-related financial need. (They also have a huge resource center for women entrepreneurs.)

  • If you have a business located in Germany, France, or Russia, Bumble community grants are still available in your area (grants in other countries are closed).

  • Check in with a Women’s Business Center in your area, to see if they can help you apply for any of the above — they might also know of more.

For all small business owners

  • Facebook has a small business grants program giving cash grants and credits to some 30,000 small businesses around the world. You need to be a for-profit company with between two and 50 employees, in or near a global location where Facebook operates. They are opening and closing windows per location, so you’ll need to check their currently eligible areas to see whether your window is open.

  • Salesforce and Ureeka are giving out $10,000 grants to small business owners who meet requirements, including challenges from COVID-19. Application window dates vary state by state.

  • It’s worth it to reach out to the local partners of the Small Business Administration in your area, too — they might have their own grants or loans available or know of others you can apply for.

  • Same with Chambers of Commerce — they’re providing a lot of resources both locally and nationally right now.

Personal loans and other options

You might also need to look at other forms of credit available to you, if personally funding your business makes sense for you financially. If so and you’re a homeowner, you could look into a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or loan. Look at all of your credit sources to see the lowest interest rate on these, and how much you have available overall, before you make a decision (the lowest interest rate is where you probably want to start).

Unemployment

The CARES Act temporarily changed federal law to allow small business owners to collect unemployment for up to 39 weeks. Through July 31, if you qualify for even $1 of state unemployment benefits through the new law, you’ll also automatically receive an extra $600 per week from the federal government.

The not-so-good news: Many states are still having trouble implementing the new guidelines. But once they are in place, your unemployment benefits will be retroactive if your claim is approved. Our best guidance is to try filing now (find your state’s info here), and try calling them on the phone if their online platform doesn’t allow you to. (Yes, this will likely take a while.) If your claim is denied once it's processed, you can appeal the decision — keep filing weekly claims until your appeal is considered.

If you have employees

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act obligates you to grant sick and family leave to your employees if they have COVID-19 or are caring for a sick family member. It mandates up to ten days of extra leave as well — which employees must take first, before they use up any other paid leave they’re entitled to.

You need to pay your employees directly for the new leave. However, you can withhold it from the payroll taxes you would normally pay over to the IRS — that is, your employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes of your employees who received the paid emergency leave. If the amount you need to pay your employees is larger than the amount you owe in payroll taxes you can request an accelerated payment from the IRS.

Full-time employees are eligible for 80 hours or ten days of sick leave at a max of $511 per day ($5,110 total)if they’re sick. If they’re caring for someone else, they’re eligible to be paid at two-thirds of their normal wage (or minimum wage, if it’s higher), up to $200 a day or $2,000 total for the ten days.

Employees caring for children who are home due to school or daycare closures are also able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave through the (normally unpaid) Family and Medical Leave Act at two-thirds normal pay (whether part-time or full-time), up to $200 a day or $10,000 total.

You’re required to follow these guidelines and pay out this leave without discriminating against employees for requesting it, or making them find replacements or coverage for the time they’re gone. You’re also required to restore anyone taking leave to their prior position when they return, unless you employ fewer than 25 employees or the job was eliminated due to the pandemic and you can’t hire them for something similar.

There’s some tax relief available to you as an employer: The CARES Act allows you to defer paying your share of the Social Security tax for 2020 over two years. You can pay the first half by December 31, 2021 and the second half on December 31, 2022.

Let’s support each other

This is a challenging time — but there’s strength in numbers. As we look for help for ourselves, we can also support other women-owned businesses. A few ideas:

  • Ladies Get Paid and the Female Founder Collective have created a new directory of women-owned businesses called Support Your Ladies.

  • Women Owned has a list of good ideas to support fellow entrepreneurs, including buying gift cards and writing testimonials.

  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council has a list of women-owned businesses offering support to others across a range of services. You can share your own offer to help there, too.

  • And maybe most important of all: Reach out to your network! Check in to see how people are doing. It’s more important than ever to stay connected right now — and you might even find ways to support each other that might surprise you.

You can also join us at free live Office Hours and workshops through this crisis, and we’re personally answering every money question from our community right now. We hope it helps. If you have any ideas about how we can support each other or questions, you can reach out to us anytime.


Disclosures

© 2020 Ellevest, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Information was obtained from third-party sources, which we believe to be reliable but not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness.

The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered specific legal, investment or tax advice.

The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person.

Investing entails risk including the possible loss of principal and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.

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What you need to know about managing your financial health during the coronavirus pandemic. Plus fact-based opinions and women supporting women. Delivered 3x a week.

Rachel Sanborn Lawrence

Rachel Sanborn is the Director of Advisory Services at Ellevest and a CFP® Professional. She oversees Ellevest’s career and financial planning teams and works with Ellevest clients to help them be the boss of their money.