SBA Program Helps to Expand Equitable Access for Small Business

by Robert J. Blaney, SBA Arizona District Director

The Arizona District Office of the Small Business Administration recently welcomed Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman when she visited Mesa and Phoenix to promote the Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP).  The CNPP was established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and will use a community navigator approach to help small businesses, with a focus on those owned by veterans, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, including those in rural and urban communities.

The program is comprised of a lead “Hub” at the center of a network of “Spoke” organizations that deploy community advocates to work with small businesses during economic recovery.  Recovery services can include financial assistance, access to capital support, contracting and procurement assistance, marketing, operations, business development, export and importing, and industry specific training to aid businesses in stabilization and expansion.

The Hub and Spoke model is intended to create a network of trusted community organizations that can leverage direct access to small businesses to help them navigate resources at all stages of their growth.  Partner organizations will also target eligible businesses to increase their awareness of, and participation in, SBA programs.

Nationwide, SBA funded 51 grant applications for the CNPP.  Arizona is fortunate to have 10 Spokes, the organizations on the ground connecting to small businesses and meeting them where they are located.  While all small businesses are eligible, CNPP’s Notice of Funding specifically acknowledged the following underserved and/or underrepresented segments: Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Small Businesses, Alaska Native and Indigenous, Asian American, Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American,  Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, North African, Tribal Communities, Rural Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs with Disabilities, LGBTQ Entrepreneurs, Veterans and Military Entrepreneurs (including spouses), Women Entrepreneurs, Innovative Startups, and Micro Businesses.

In Phoenix, the International Rescue Committee has received five (5) tier one Spoke grants for 19North, IRC Phoenix, Lagos Phoenix, Refugee and Immigrant Community for Empowerment and the Somali American Council.

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has received four (4) tier one Spoke grants for the Asian Chamber of Commerce, RAIL CDC, Southwest Human Development’s Early Childhood Business Management Program and Trellis.

Further, the National Urban League has funded the Greater Phoenix Urban League as a tier one Spoke.

The Community Navigators Performance Period runs from December 1, 2021, through November 30, 2023, and it enables the SBA to further maximize its efforts, leverage all possible resources, and have the greatest reach for the U.S. small business ecosystem.  Of the more than 7.9 million small establishments (<500 employees), 20.7% are in counties without any type of SBA service center.  The Community Navigator Pilot Program will help SBA bridge this gap and ensure small businesses receive the support they need to start, grow and recover.

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