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As Black and brown business owners throughout the country continue to navigate the lingering effects of the pandemic, several initiatives have been created to provide relief. Among them is an effort being spearheaded by the full-service investment banking and financial services company Siebert Williams Shank & Co.

The racial barriers that entrepreneurs of color face were exacerbated by the pandemic. Research revealed during the early rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program, although Black-owned businesses were hit the hardest, they received fewer loans. CNBC reported in the midst of the public health crisis 41 percent of Black-owned businesses shuttered between February and April 2020.

Aware of the staggering statistics and the racial inequities, Siebert Williams Shank & Co. wanted to cultivate a solution that would prevent more closures. The company—which has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading diverse-led, woman-owned investment firms—unveiled an initiative dubbed the Clear Vision Impact Fund. Through the fund, which was launched in August 2020, the firm is aiming to provide over $250 million in loans to small Black and brown-led businesses that employ and train people of color and support underserved communities. The fund has garnered over $100 million in capital commitments, closing its first round with support from investors that include Microsoft Corporation, eBay, Comcast Corporation, Constellation Brands and Apple. The commitments are a part of larger efforts being led by these companies that are centered on racial equity.

Christopher J. Williams, Chairman of Siebert Williams Shank & Co., says the fund will be instrumental in reversing the alarming trend surrounding the closures of Black and brown-owned businesses by providing economic resources. “The members of the Siebert Williams Shank and Clear Vision Impact Fund teams are gratified to have received the support and confidence of these industry-leading corporate partners that have enabled this important mission,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to enhancing the economic prospects for the diverse community members that will benefit from the economic growth that is made possible through this critically important investment initiative.” The company is slated to start distributing the loans soon.

Amid the pandemic, businesses, organizations and individuals have stepped up to support entrepreneurs in need. Last August, NBA legend and mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson teamed up with Carver Federal Savings Bank and MBE Partners for the creation of a paycheck protection program designed for minority and women-owned businesses.

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Ma'Khia Bryant
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