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posted Friday, April 2, 2021 - Volume 40 Issue 14
State partners with BECU Foundation to expand funding and resources to historically underserved and hard-to-reach small businesses
Section One
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State partners with BECU Foundation to expand funding and resources to historically underserved and hard-to-reach small businesses

OLYMPIA, Wash. (March 30, 2021) - The needs of small business owners trying to recover from the pandemic are vast and varied. While many business owners have connections and resources that help them tap into government and philanthropic aid programs, significant barriers exist that prevent many others from accessing those same programs. As a result, historically underserved organizations, such as minority-owned and rural businesses and nonprofits, are shouldering disproportionate economic impacts while having fewer opportunities to learn about and successfully apply for assistance.

As part of its effort to promote an equitable economic recovery, the Washington State Department of Commerce established the Small Business Resiliency Network last April to ensure that all business owners could be informed about local, state, and federal funding and other important resources and programs available to them. The network's trusted community organizations provide culturally appropriate outreach, translation, assistance, and education to ensure business owners can find the information they need from people they trust.

Thanks to a partnership with the BECU Foundation, the Small Business Resiliency network has now grown to 31 organizations serving communities in nearly 40 languages. Find an overview sheet [at https://bit.ly/3sGTsID]. Some organizations provide services in their area, while others serve businesses statewide. Find a searchable list and map of the network on Commerce's website

https://bit.ly/3m9wMP5

The most recent organizations added to the network include the following:

" African Community Housing Development (ACHD)

" CAFÉ (Community for the Advancement of Family Education)

" Cambodian American Community Council

" Carl Maxey Center

" Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship

" El Centro de la Raza

" Ethiopian Community in Seattle

" Fourth Plain Forward

" Japan-America Society of the State of Washington

" Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS)

" Odyssey World International Education Services

" William Factory Small Business Incubator

"Growing the reach and capacity of this trusted network is vital to ensuring equity in Washington's economic recovery. We must provide all business owners with equal opportunities to get the help they need to safely reopen and succeed," said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. "The BECU Foundation shares our commitment, and we're delighted to have their expertise on board."

The state contracted with the BECU Foundation to act as financial agent for the additional $2 million in CARES Act funding that enabled the Small Business Resiliency Network to expand.

"Many rural organizations and small businesses owned by woman and people of color have been deeply and disproportionally impacted by the pandemic," said Solynn McCurdy, executive director of the BECU Foundation. "We recognize the important role that local organizations play in the financial health of our communities. The BECU Foundation was honored to help these businesses receive this critical funding so they can continue serving individuals and families in the Puget Sound area."

"As immigrant and refugee communities, members are challenged by many cultural barriers such as language, fear of asking for help, which prevents them from accessing information needed for their small businesses to succeed. The idea of trusted messengers really resonated with us, as well as those we helped," said former state Rep. Velma Veloria, of the Filipino Community of Seattle.

"We are using our trusted relationships to work with business owners on 'new normal' practices in the workplace, such as new policies implemented by the Department of Labor and Industries," said Lori Wada, with the Seattle Washington Korean Association. "We will continually provide educational resources to our business community members, which now number more than 700."

For more information or questions about Commerce's community engagement and outreach work, please contact communityoutreach@commerce.wa.gov.

Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Commerce

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