Lowe’s Companies is expanding its support to rural, hard-hit communities and to minority-owned businesses. It’s also piloting drive-in theatres in its parking lots.
In response to the “overwhelming need to help support small businesses across the country,” the home improvement retailer said it is increasing its minority small-business grants from $25 million to $30 million and also donating an additional $25 million to its small business grant program with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), doubling the amount already committed.
The additional funds will focus on rural communities, which have been hard hit by the pandemic. The total $55 million commitment makes Lowe's the largest donor to LISC's Small Business Relief & Recovery Program and COVID Rapid Relief & Resiliency Fund.
Additionally, this summer, select Lowe's stores in North Carolina and Georgia, will host drive-in movies to benefit local small business relief efforts for those impacted by COVID-19. For any donation made, Lowe's will match two-to-one up to $50,000 to its grant program.
"Having grown up in a small town, I have first-hand knowledge of the extraordinary challenges small business owners in rural communities across the country face during the pandemic,” said president and CEO Marvin Ellison. “We also remain committed to supporting minority small businesses that are being disproportionately impacted. Today's announcement that we are increasing our minority grant commitment to $30 million while making an additional $25 million grant donation to rural communities reflects our commitment to double down on our small business grant program and is another step in putting actions behind our words to support all the communities we serve.”
Nationwide, 7.5 million small businesses may be at risk of closing permanently, according to a survey by Main Street America. Small businesses in rural communities often face even more hurdles than their urban counterparts due to limited access to bank credit, capital and other support services. For the purpose of these grants, rural communities will be defined based on the USDA Rural Development (RD) standard of a population with 50,000 or less. Without the resources, many of these businesses may permanently close, resulting in significant job loss to the area.
The Lowe’s grants will provide immediate relief for critical needs such as rent, payroll and operational expenses to keep businesses running. The donation also helps connect both the applicants and grantees to a network of local small business development, support, advocacy and capital access organizations. These grant recipients will receive one year of technical assistance post-grant to help further ensure their survival over the longer-term.