Charity helping marginalized small-business owners during pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A charity that has been helping small businesses for more than 165 years is supporting those struggling to survive the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Jill Fink, executive director of The Merchants Fund of Philadelphia, says the group has distributed some $380,000 in grants to business owners in low-income, high-poverty, marginalized neighborhoods.

"Businesses owned by immigrants, minorities, people of color, women — often like the mom-and-pop shops where both adults in the household work for the business — and so the entire household income is dependent upon the business," she said.

She cited as examples an optical store, NV My Eyewear on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia, and West Philly Produce — "a produce store that does fresh produce at affordable prices for a low-income community that wouldn’t necessarily have as much access."

Fink says each $5,000 grant provides some temporary, short-term relief.

“We’re seeing that businesses are using that to pay rent, to pay their employees, utilities, some paying their vendors," Fink said.

“The immediate need is there and will continue to be there for some time. And then there’s going to be a huge need during the recovery, as well.” 

Now, she says, The Merchants Fund is reaching out to the community for help with replenishing its emergency relief fund.