Some Philly businesses could get $50K boost from the city

The Department of Commerce expects to award 20 historically disadvantaged businesses $50,000 forgivable loans, which convert into grants, later this year.

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Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall, northeast corner. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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The city of Philadelphia revived its Boost Your Business program that helps historically disadvantaged business owners for at least one more year.

The Commerce Department program seeks to connect with businesses constrained by lack of capital but with the potential to grow.

There’s enough money for 20 businesses to get $50,000 in forgivable loans; each is converted into a grant after hitting certain milestones.

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Here are a few rules: Businesses must already be generating at least $350,000 in annual revenue, be in operation for three years or longer, and be majority-owned by individuals who have faced racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias.

The program was piloted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago under former Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration. At the time, the city used an expedited procurement process.

There’s already a support system with various programs for micro- and small businesses that generate less than $250,000.

But there was a gap in help for larger businesses that just needed an extra boost, officials said.

“Just a little bit of infusion of capital could actually grow, and would increase, their revenue and hopefully create additional jobs,” said Yvonne Boye, deputy commerce director inside the Office of Neighborhood Economic Development.

In 2022, there were 22 historically disadvantaged businesses awarded forgivable loans from the city in partnership with the Community First Fund and VestedIn.

All the loans were forgiven, which means converted into grants, because the businesses reached their goals, according to the city.

In 2023, the city program was paused to make changes, and the city issued a request for proposals to find a partner organization.

The contract was awarded to the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the city’s public-private development organization.

Businesses can use the forgivable loan for common business expenses like equipment, working capital and inventory.

“Anything that you will demonstrate to us is going to lead to increased revenues and hopefully creation of jobs,” Boye said.

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Successful businesses eventually get that loan turned into a grant. If not – it’s got to be repaid.

“We don’t want that,” Boye said. “We provide them with technical assistance to make sure that they reach their goals.”

Applications open to the public June 25 and close July 31.

It’s unclear whether the program will return next year.

Officials said that Mayor Cherelle Parker’s administration is evaluating programs dependent upon the city budget.

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