RIBBA offers forgivable microloan program for BIPOC-owned businesses

THE RHODE ISLAND BLACK Business Association is launching a new forgivable loan program that will provide $450,000 in microloans to Black, Indigenous and People of Color-owned small businesses in the state. Above, Lisa Ranglin, Rhode Island Black Business Association founder and president. / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE A new, forgivable loan program will provide a combined $450,000 in microloans to Black, Indigenous and people of color-owned small businesses in the state, the Rhode Island Black Business Association announced Thursday.

The program, which awards loans ranging from $500 to $3,000, will help to address disparities that communities of color have faced in pandemic recovery, said Lisa Ranglin, founder and president of RIBBA. 

“COVID-19 has been disproportionately impacting communities of color,” Ranglin said, “and businesses in Rhode Island have missed out on [Paycheck Protection Program] dollars and lots of other resources due to barriers in order to access those opportunities.” 

The loans are available for BIPOC-owned businesses, typically with nine or less employees. If a business owner uses the funding to address a COVID-19 related issue, the loan is forgiven; otherwise, business owners pay it back with a 1% interest rate. 

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The Papitto Opportunity Connection Foundation, a nonprofit that advances opportunities for the BIPOC community in Rhode Island, funded the program. The foundation will provide $150,000 annually over the course of three years.  

RIBBA also takes donations to continue supporting the loan program and its other projects, Ranglin said. 

Despite their “micro” designation, the $500-$3,000  loans can make a big difference for small businesses, Ranglin said, and benefits to business owners extend to employees and the state’s overall economy. 

“It’s a huge win for our community, it’s a huge win for our businesses,” Ranglin said. “We know small businesses also create jobs, and when they create jobs, they put people to work.” 

With many businesses already experiencing financial hardships, RIBBA wanted to create opportunities that wouldn’t create more debt.   

“We believe that our businesses are struggling, and they really don’t want to have more loans,” Ranglin said, “so we are excited that this foundation has made it possible for these monies to be forgiven.” 

Businesses can apply for a loan at ri-bba.org. 

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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