Fairfax County PIVOT recovery grant applications close July 9; supporting NOVA’s minority-owned businesses

Applications are open for Fairfax County’s PIVOT recovery grants, which will use $25 million in grant funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to provide targeted assistance to the most hard-hit sectors of the Fairfax County economy as the result of the pandemic. Conceived and approved by the Board of Supervisors and administered by the Department of Economic Initiatives, the goal of the program is to help those businesses continue their recovery by providing needed capital for ongoing operations and to sustain business sectors.

Applications will be accepted from qualifying businesses through 11:59 p.m. on July 9. Business owners can apply any time during the application period and there is no advantage to applying first.

“Fairfax County is committed to helping businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic. Through the PIVOT grant we will help those businesses who saw the greatest financial impact regain their momentum so they will be able to thrive in the reopening marketplace,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “It also directs recovery toward sectors that employ disproportionately higher numbers of low income and minority workers, making it all more important that we target recovery efforts to these communities who have been hardest hit.”

Funds will be disbursed via four programs:

Businesses must be located in Fairfax County, including the Towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna and have a have a commercial storefront (no online only or home-based businesses will be eligible for awards). Businesses must be open or temporarily closed, planning to reopen by August 31, 2021 and have a valid Business and Professional License (BPOL). Grant award amounts, eligibility criteria and other requirements are available on the Fairfax County website.

Application Tools:

  • Read a PIVOT Q&A here.
  • PIVOT webinar: Watch the presentation here and see the presentation slides here.
  • Language portal: All information materials are also in Arabic, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. Click here to access the links.

The Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) is the grant administrator of the program and is experienced in supporting small businesses and non-profits across many economic sectors. The LEDC is also experienced in administering large-scale grant programs and providing technical assistance and capital financing to businesses and non-profits.

In early 2021, Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority commissioned an Economic Recovery Framework study that illustrated that the county lost an estimated 48,200 jobs (through December 2020) and employment losses were heavily concentrated in food service, hospitality and retail sectors. The study provided a “road map” that highlighted opportunities to create a just and resilient recovery through specific steps and programming. A small business grant program was one of the recommendations. Using this data, PIVOT targets businesses in the retail, food service, hospitality/lodging and arts sectors.

“The PIVOT program provides another opportunity for financial help for Fairfax County businesses and organizations that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “The FCEDA applauds this latest initiative by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Economic Initiatives to help these businesses survive and to thrive in the post-pandemic economy.”

Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, Fairfax County has developed a number of programs designed to support various members of the business community, the non-profit community, and its workforce, including the COVID-19 Recovery Microloan Fund; the RISE Grant Program; the Social Safety Net Nonprofit Sustainability Grant Program, Emergency Rental Assistance Program; and the administration of vaccines.

More information on the PIVOT program can be found at FairfaxCounty.gov/Economic-Initiatives/Pivot. Program questions can be directed to pivotfairfax@ledcmetro.org or by utilizing the chat function in the grant application program.

Additional programs:

Northern Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program: This program will match payments from eligible Northern Virginia small businesses to provide new hires with up to $1,000 to support their transition back into the workforce.

  • The Return to Earn Grant Program is aimed at employers with less than 100 employees that may not have the resources to provide this financial support and need staff to return quickly.
  • More information can be found here.

Fairfax County Microloan Funds: Last year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created a microloan fund for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 downturn. Funds are immediately available for businesses struggling for capital. Financing can be used for working capital, equipment, rent or inventory.

  •  Eligible for-profit businesses must be established in Fairfax County for one year and have 50 or fewer employees. The maximum loan amount is $30,000 with manageable interest, low fees, and up to six-year terms.
  •  For more information, visit the program’s administrator, the Community Business Partnership.

Black Business Accelerator: Amazon is launching the Black Business Accelerator to help build sustainable equity and growth for Black-owned businesses. The initiative, which explicitly targets barriers to access, opportunity, and advancement created by systemic racism across America, was created in partnership with Amazon’s Black Employee Network and a coalition of strategic partners.  The application process opens today and closes July 29. Awards will be announced September 2.

Supporting Northern Virginia’s minority-owned businesses

In the aftermath of the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, a newly released report, “Supporting Northern Virginia’s Minority-Owned Businesses,” reveals the extent to which minority-owned businesses were at increased risk during the past year.

On June 23, the Northern Virginia Minority-Owned Businesses Working Group – formed by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Arlington Economic Development, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Loudoun County Department of Economic Development, Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance, Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and Prince William County Department of Economic Development – presented the findings of the collaborative report.

These findings were presented at a Community Foundation for Northern Virginia Build Back-Dream Forward virtual event. Melissa Bradley, co-founder of Ureeka, a business growth platform, was the keynote presenter.

During the event, Stephen Tarditi, director of market intelligence at the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, and one of the FCEDA representatives on the Northern Virginia Minority-Owned Business Working Group, provided an overview of the key findings of the report.

“This report is a proof-point for the collaboration that is needed going forward for our region to understand the needs of our business community, utilizing data to make strategic decisions,” Tarditi said.

According to the study, Northern Virginia is home to about 128,000 minority-owned businesses. The report highlights these establishments and observes how they were impacted by the pandemic. The findings reveal the greater extent to which minority-owned businesses suffered. The smaller size of many minority-owned businesses, difficulty gaining access to capital, and concentration in certain industries such as accommodation and food, arts, entertainment and retail placed them at increased risk during the past year.

In response to these results, the group made recommendations to aid minority-owned businesses through recovery from the challenges of the pandemic. However, it also promotes steady support for minority business owners beyond the pandemic and in preparation for another potential economic downturn. To do so, the report discusses the need for regular data collection, attention to small minority-owned businesses with risk factors, and access to capital for minority business owners.

Keynote speaker Melissa Bradley detailed the impact of the historical disinvestment in entrepreneurs in communities of color, and discussed the importance of supporting Black and Brown entrepreneurs, as well as the systemic changes that are needed to help Black and Brown-owned businesses grow, and how to help local entrepreneurs of color.

She provided recommendations for government, corporations and individuals on how to help local entrepreneurs of color.

“The first thing is that we can recognize that there is a need for adequate race specific data collection necessary for identifying and tracing and ameliorating race-based gaps,” Bradley said. “Data actually drives decisions.”

Additional potential solutions for governments to help local entrepreneurs of color include, according to Bradley: investment in key ancillary supports, support for innovation initiatives, investment in wealth building, and the allocation of funding for training programs such as STEM and entrepreneurship.

Bradley detailed how corporations can help local entrepreneurs of color by diversifying board memberships, enhancing supplier diversity, and facilitating access to business support services, such as accounting and legal.

Individuals can help by engaging in advocacy, speaking out on issues, utilizing power when possible, and voting and spending in accordance with one’s values, she said.

Click here to see the event video recording. Click here to read the report.

July 1, 2021