Our Values in the Face of COVID-19
A Letter from Opportunity Fund CEO, Luz Urrutia
For 26 years, Opportunity Fund has supported business owners, their families, our communities and partners. Together, we have worked to build a world in which entrepreneurs and communities have the opportunity to make their dreams come true. While there have been good and bad times over those years, nothing compares to the challenges we face with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past several weeks, we have taken steps to make sure all 130 Opportunity Fund team members are safe and able to work from home. We’ve accomplished this first goal, and our entire team has been working endless hours to help business owners, community partners, and supporters navigate these difficult times.
Our team is available by email, phone, and text, to provide the one-on-one support that has always been a hallmark of our work. Over the last 30 days, our staff has fielded more than 5,000 customers and non-customers (business owners) seeking support and relief. This increase in call activity to 7,200 per week represents 2.5 times the call volume we normally experience. We are helping our borrowers with debt relief, new loans and/or connecting them with local resources that can support them through the crisis. We are immensely grateful to the dedication of our frontline team members who are handling this influx of clients that urgently need our help.
We are also deeply inspired by our borrowers, many of whom are pivoting their businesses to generate revenue during a time when everyone has been asked to shelter in place.
One staff member noted, “Our clients have been trying their best to stay optimistic.” “They’re working to find new ways to diversify their revenue, reduce expenses and survive.” “Their biggest challenge is the uncertainty…” “I’ve been trying to connect everyone with the resources they need.” “I am still continually impressed with the drive, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our clients.”
Kali Greek Kitchen in Palo Alto is just one example of that resourcefulness. In gratitude for the extraordinary work of health care providers on the front line, Kali Greek Kitchen has offered customers the option to donate meals to be delivered to front line health care providers at their place of work. While no amount of take-out can make up for the loss in revenue, it is a testament to our minority, low-to-moderate income and women-owned small businesses who are focused on doing what it takes to help their businesses survive while demonstrating kindness towards others.
To help our clients manage through this crisis, Opportunity Fund launched its Small Business Relief Fund to raise $50 million to help borrowers in California and across the country with debt relief, loss mitigation and provide new loans to existing and new clients. We are extremely grateful to those individuals and corporations that have already committed over $7 Million in support; to Jennifer Aniston for directing the Jimmy Kimmel Live! TV Show audience to join her in support of Opportunity Fund, and to Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber for raising their voices on social media to support us as well. Our thanks to Wells Fargo, a Founding Funder, of the Small Business Relief Fund, for recognizing this need and supporting the work that Opportunity Fund continues to do throughout the crisis.
Since March, Opportunity Fund has provided payment assistance (deferred payments) for 1,499 customers for a total of $2 million in deferred payments. The average payment deferral is $1,300 per borrower. We are speaking with clients who need our help each and every day.
We are consistently updating our website with weekly digests of resources available to support small businesses, including non-profits, private, city, state and federal programs. To date, over 1,800 individuals have attended our online financial education webinars we are hosting with our partners, including the Small Business Administration, to address critical concerns about managing their small or micro business through these turbulent times.
We are also waiting for approval from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to become a designated lender for the Paycheck Protection Plan, part of the federal CARES Act, to provide loans to our borrowers throughout California and in other key communities across the country. In addition, we have other partnership collaborations in the works that we will announce shortly.
We continue to advocate for stronger federal and state support for small business owners, and for funding for community development financial institutions like Opportunity Fund. These resources are critical for us to continue supporting entrepreneurship, hard work, and ideas and continue to build a diverse community where opportunity, knowledge, and access to capital are within reach. These goals and values are even more important today than they were just a few weeks ago.
Our team members at Accion Opportunity Fund and Opportunity Fund, our Board of Directors, Leadership Council and Southern California Advisory Board members and our donors are committed to weathering this crisis together.
Mission: To drive economic mobility by delivering affordable capital and responsible financial solutions to determined entrepreneurs and communities.
Vision: We envision an inclusive world in which all entrepreneurs and communities have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.
Core Value: “We constantly seek and develop creative new solutions to our clients evolving needs. Our commitment to innovation helps grow businesses, communities, and the economy.”
SUPPORTING OUR BORROWERS SUPPORTING OUR COMMUNITY