On March 22, New York State went on PAUSE, launching residents and business owners alike into uncertainty. Over the past month, Rochesterians have adapted to our ever-changing new normal, as guidelines on how to safely live, work, and operate businesses are continuously updated.
Fortunately, many government agencies, community organizations, and nonprofits are rapidly tailoring their resources and services to address the critical needs of our business owners. The City of Rochester introduced a new $2,000 working capital grant, the Rochester Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) announced loan deferrals, and the Small Business Administration developed expedited loan products in response to COVID-19.
We are fortunate that the Kiva Rochester program was also able to rapidly adapt, as Kiva HQ announced changes to their U.S. loan product, further expanding access to capital for entrepreneurs suddenly navigating business ownership during this unprecedented time. On March 16, Kiva announced several immediate changes to their zero percent interest crowdfunded loan product:
The Kiva Rochester team quickly implemented new measures to better serve the community and reduce barriers to accessing Kiva loans, while simultaneously prioritizing the safety of our community. We moved our office hours online, recorded demos on how to apply for a loan, launched daily phone-in office hours from 2:00-4:00 PM on our new hotline, and updated our comprehensive guide book to include the newest changes related to COVID-19.
As we announced these changes on our program’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, we immediately began seeing an uptick in applications and inquiries. Kiva U.S. typically receives around 900 applications per month. During the three week period from March 16 – April 7, Kiva received over 3,400 applications – 51 of those applications were started by Rochester businesses.
During times of struggle and tragedy, one of Mr. Rogers most quoted sentiments tends to get shared over and over on the internet: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” We are proud to partner with Kiva, who engages a community of 1.9 million helpers all over the world who support entrepreneurs by lending to them on Kiva’s online platform. And now, the Kiva lending community is engaged more than ever, coming together to fund loans almost as soon as they are posted on the Kiva website. So far, three local business owners in wildly diverse sectors – a coffee shop staffed by women in recovery, a cheerleading training academy, and a salt float therapy center – have successfully fundraised $38,500 in 0% interest Kiva loans with the help of 496 lenders. Our loans in Rochester have historically taken approximately 7 days on average to fully fundraise on the Kiva site, the Rochester loans we have supported during COVID-19 have been funded in less than 24 hours, getting these funds into the bank accounts of our businesses in record time! We anticipate at least 10 more Rochester businesses will receive Kiva loans to help weather the difficulties of coronavirus in the coming week.
While we wish it were under different circumstances, the Kiva Rochester team is grateful to be so well-positioned to help connect many business owners with a critical resource at such a challenging time. We don’t know how long social distancing policies will be in place or when New York will reopen for business. What we do know is that while businesses continue to face challenges, our community is springing to action to let Rochester’s entrepreneurs know that we are here to support them.
Are you interested in applying for a zero percent interest Kiva loan? You can start your application at Kiva.org/borrow or reach out to us at Rochester@local.kiva.org.