Facebook gives US$40m to Black-owned businesses hit by COVID-19

by Business Zone

Facebook is expanding its support of Black-owned businesses. In March, social media giant pledged $100 million to small businesses around the world. On Aug. 19, the company fine-tuned its funding goal, setting aside US$40 million of that money for Black-led companies in the U.S.

“We know the support is needed now, if not yesterday,” said Payton Iheme, public policy manager for Facebook, citing the disparate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on minority entrepreneurs.

Facebook said it will award 10,000 grants of US$2,500 in cash. Recipients will also get Facebook advertising credits worth US$1,500, Iheme said. Entrepreneurs can apply online. To qualify, businesses must have between one and 50 employees and be majority Black-owned.

“What we want to do is slow the rate of these businesses closing,” Iheme said.

August is National Black Business Month. The observance began in 2004, but with the recent social unrest and renewed attention on racial disparities, several Atlanta organizations are increasing efforts to encourage consumers to buy from Black-owned firms.

Facebook joins a growing list of companies pledging support to the Black community, despite facing complaints about its handling of hate speech on its platform and its internal diversity efforts. Google and WeWork announced plans earlier this month to support Atlanta-based Black-owned startups.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York issued a report showing that between February and April, 41% of Black-owned businesses across the country closed. Other studies indicate thousands could shutter by the end of the year.

“For a place that has all the entrepreneurship power and the Black businesses that Atlanta does, this is especially important that they know how to apply and that they apply as soon as they can,” Iheme said. “If given the funds, and if they’re able to weather the storm, they’ll be able to innovate and they’ll be able to create new companies and products,” she said.

They may also be able to attract new customers. Starting Aug. 19, Facebook will let Black-owned businesses label their companies as “Black” on the social media platform and on Instagram. Consumers who want to purchase from diverse entrepreneurs will be able to search and support them more easily.

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