The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people and businesses around the globe, and our Gulf South region has been no exception. In response, Hancock Whitney partnered with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB) by contributing to its Partnership Grant Program. The FHLB added $2 million to its Partnership Grant Program this year to support community-based organizations, allowing FHLB to provide 5:1 matching for contributions from participating partners, including Hancock Whitney.
According to Greg Hettrick, First VP and Director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas, the Partnership Grant Program is designed to help with administrative expenses that often become a difficult hurdle for community-based organizations. Having Hancock Whitney help cover these expenses alleviates more funds that can be used for programs that directly benefit the community.
Through the Partnership Grant Program, FHLB matched Hancock Whitney’s $59,000 contribution to fund 13 grants to community-based organizations, totaling $244,245. Two of those grant recipients, El Centro and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation (HCCL), are stepping in to support local Hispanic communities through the COVID-19 crisis. Hispanic small businesses have been particularly hard hit, with 86 percent of Latino small business owners reporting a significant negative impact to their business1 and nearly half of Hispanics saying they or a household member have taken a pay cut, lost a job or both due to the pandemic. More than two-thirds of Hispanics see the COVID-19 outbreak as a major threat to their personal financial situation.2
El Centro received a grant for $30,000 which will help provide Spanish language financial literacy programming, tax preparation assistance, business coaching and entrepreneurial training.
Executive director Lindsey Navarro founded El Centro two years ago when she realized that there wasn’t anyone talking about lending, accessing capital or entrepreneurship in Spanish. Her organization now uses workshops, a business bootcamp and one-on-one consulting to fill that gap with Spanish language financial literacy programming, tax preparation assistance, business coaching and entrepreneurial training.
When COVID-19 began, El Centro shifted from in-person assistance to the virtual world and began managing triple the usual number of consultation requests — about 15 per week. People’s needs also shifted from business growth to help with financial support and funding such as applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance (EIDL) loans and unemployment benefits. El Centro is on the financial front-line, connecting businesses to the capital they need and helping people access the funding they need to stay afloat.
The $30,000 grant award doubles El Centro’s budget. That will allow Navarro to pay a current full-time volunteer for 25 hours of work per week and hire an additional part-time employee. Funds will also assist with program expansions, including workshops on business start-ups, credit management and first-time home-buyer information.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation
The HCCL Foundation provides free employment and training services to individuals within the Hispanic community. The bilingual staff assists people with resumes and job placement, while educational efforts focus on financial literacy, computer literacy and empowerment for small business owners. The foundation also advocates at the state and local level, highlighting the needs of the Hispanic community and ensuring that critical information is available in Spanish.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana accepts their $15,000 grant, which will help expand workshops and seminar offerings for Hispanic small businesses.
Demand for foundation assistance jumped 70 percent, with 50 to 60 individuals requesting help every day, particularly with job placement and computer skills training. To address these needs, the foundation recently held its first all-virtual job fair and an all-virtual women’s business symposium. The job fair boasted 10 employers and 60 job seekers, with some participants placed into jobs that same day. The women’s business symposium was equally successful, with 200+ virtual attendees.
With grant support of $15,000, the foundation is planning to expand its list of workshops and seminars covering everything from basic Microsoft Office tools for individuals to QuickBooks and cybersecurity offerings for small businesses. Grant funds will also allow Pineda to hire another staff member, which will bolster the foundation’s business expansion efforts and make available programming such as the upcoming virtual Healthcare, Technology & Innovation Summit.
Hancock Whitney is proud to partner with groups like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation and El Centro and help create greater in-roads into under-served and minority communities.
1 “How Latino Small Business Owners Are Keeping Their Businesses Running During Coronavirus,” Brandon Gomez, CNBC.com, posted May 3, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/03/how-latino-entrepreneurs-are-adapting-businesses-during-coronavirus.html, accessed June 24, 2020.
2 “U.S. Latinos Among Hardest Hit by Pay Cuts, Job Losses Due to Coronavirus,” Jens Manuel Krogstad, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Luis Noe-Bustamante, PewResearch.org, posted April 3, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/03/u-s-latinos-among-hardest-hit-by-pay-cuts-job-losses-due-to-coronavirus/, accessed June 24, 2020.