Thursday, September 23, 2021

State unveils Flex Fund program for small businesses, nonprofits

by Staff report
| July 19, 2021 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — Small business owners and nonprofits across Washington can apply for low interest loans of up to $150,000 through the newly-launched Small Business Flex Fund, according to a press release from the state Department of Commerce.

The fund is a public-private partnership aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofits – particularly those in low-income communities – recover and grow as communities across the state reopen for business.

Gov. Jay Inslee, in November 2020, approved a foundational investment of $30 million for the state Department of Commerce to create a recovery loan program. Commerce is partnering with several financial institutions and community-based organizations to lend $100 million or more to small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees and annual revenues of less than $3 million.

Qualifying businesses and nonprofits can apply for loans up to $150,000. Loans are available in 60- or 72-month loan terms at interest rates between 3 and 4.5%.

“Reopening our economy is an incredible milestone and we want to ensure that our smallest businesses and nonprofits have equitable access to flexible financial support to get back on their feet,” Inslee said in the release. “The Small Business Flex Fund will not only aid in our businesses’ recovery from the pandemic, but it will allow them to plan ahead, grow and thrive. And this is a tool that will remain available over many years, to bolster our smallest businesses and nonprofit organizations in times of economic hardship.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic shone a bright light on many of the historic inequities and barriers facing different communities. One of those barriers is access to working capital for small businesses and nonprofits trying to develop and grow, especially those in low-income areas and led by women and people of color,” said Lisa Brown, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce, in the release. “We designed the Small Business Flex Fund to provide more equitable access to growth capital for smaller, local businesses and nonprofits, ensuring a greater economic recovery for all of Washington.”

The fund works with and through local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which serve under resourced communities and underbanked businesses the Small Business Flex Fund aims to help.

All small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and $3 million in annual revenue can apply and culturally-appropriate in-language assistance is available. Interested applicants pre-apply on the Flex Fund’s online portal and, if they qualify, will be matched with a lender. Once matched, the participating lender will assist the business owner throughout the application process and provide additional advisory support. If a business doesn’t qualify, they will be connected to a trusted community organization that can assist with finding other resources.

Five CDFIs are originating loans for the fund, including Ascendus, Business Impact NW, Craft3, Evergreen Business Capital Community Finance, and the National Development Council Community Impact Loan Fund.

The CDFIs will also be supported by leading technical assistance and business support organizations including Business Impact Northwest’s Washington Women’s Business Center and Veterans Business Outreach Center, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE), the Minority Business Development Agency – Tacoma Business Center, Sister Sky Inc., and Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) Financial Access.

For more information and to apply, visit