Keona Cowan who oversees our real estate and small business programs describes our approach and efforts in supporting and creating relief tools to help Detroit small businesses and property owners during the current economic crisis.
Like many of you, the team at Invest Detroit are all working from home and trying to figure out the best way to help the many businesses and individuals impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis. Partnership is at the heart of our work, so in the creation of our own support tools it is important to us that we are coordinating efforts rather than duplicating them, while also keeping an eye out for those that may not be covered by existing tools. It has been incredible to see how quickly our community of partners and funders have banded together to react in ways that are thoughtful, strategic, and communally designed to provide support to as many businesses as we can.
In terms of small business support, both TechTown and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation stepped in very early to create resources for Detroit businesses, and we are supporting their work and programs as a funder and a thought-partner. Within our own small business portfolio, we are offering loan deferments and working closely with the business owners to tackle specific challenges and help them identify and apply to other federal, state, and local resources. The New Economy Initiative (NEI) has been a remarkable partner for many of the organizations offering small business support and have extended a program to us that makes loan payments on behalf of some of our small business clients.
The one impacted audience we found that is not receiving support through current tools is the property owners whose buildings are occupied by small businesses who cannot currently afford to pay rent. With further, generous support from NEI as well as some of our existing cash reserves, we created the Property Owner Rental Relief Fund that provides grants to property owners who are giving rent relief to their small business tenants. Though we are still fundraising to grow its impact, the current fund aims to support vulnerable property owners who rely on rent for income while still allowing them to provide rent relief to their tenants. Due to limited resources, we are prioritizing our current lending footprint which includes all ten neighborhoods targeted for Strategic Neighborhood Fund investment—a program that remains intact and will continue once construction is allowed to begin.
This is a challenge that no one entity can solve on its own, and the strong relationships we have built together across government, nonprofits, CDFIs, community organizations, foundations, and local corporations give all of us at Invest Detroit so much hope and confidence that we will weather this storm together. This coordination and tireless commitment to our city and its residents have been nothing short of amazing, and we are grateful for each and every one of you.