By Jeffrey McKinney

Grameen America is getting a $1.5 million grant from the Truist Foundation to support Black women entrepreneurs.

The nonprofit community development financial institution will use the cash to strengthen its current program model to empower what it calls the nation’s fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs.

According to a news release, the grant will help Grameen America’s 10-year plan to provide $1.3 billion in loans to over 80,000 Black women entrepreneurs by 2030. Those entrepreneurs will be offered loan capital, financial training, along with asset and credit-building tools.

The organization also hopes its model will empower Black women entrepreneurs in U.S. cities to address systemic racial inequity and play a transformative role in the nation’s economic recovery. Those drives are needed a year after dire events like COVID-19 disproportionately hit minority communities hard.

Its newest program, called the Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, was started in May 2021. This fall, it has launched in New York City and Newark, New Jersey, with plans to expand to Memphis, Tennessee. Grameen America provides microloans loans ranging from $2,000 to $15,000. Entrepreneurs can use the loans as working capital to invest in any of their income-generating activities.

The funding is essential though businesses owned by women of color—particularly Black American women proprietors—have grown more rapidly than peer businesses in recent years.

Grameen America reports deep-rooted inequities and discriminatory lending practices are among obstacles Black women desiring to start a business face. It claims those challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as Black-owned businesses declined 41% between February and April 2020. That drop was more than twice the decline rate for white-owned businesses.

“Seed funding from Truist Foundation will play a transformative role in innovating and adapting our model to advance economic independence for Black women entrepreneurs,” Andrea Jung, president and CEO of Grameen America, stated. “Together we aim to remove systemic barriers in accessing affordable capital for small businesses led by Black women. When we invest in financial equality for all women, we’re in turn strengthening microbusinesses, creating jobs and revitalizing local economies.”

Further, the nonprofit reports the funding will help it lean-test various new programmatic enhancements and community partnerships in select cities, to scale learnings and programs throughout Truist markets. It added the partnership would help Grameen America advance program outcomes tied to member outreach, recruitment, upfront training, retention, and financial and business education.

Truist Foundation President Lynette Bell stated, “Truist Foundation is committed to partnering with nonprofit organizations that address barriers to economic mobility for those historically excluded. We’re excited to support Grameen America in getting the financial tools and resources into the hands of Black women entrepreneurs to help build better lives and communities.”

Since 2008, Grameen America reports it has invested $2 billion with over 138,500 women across 18 U.S. cities.

See Original Article at Black Enterprise