Inna Kinney, founder and CEO of the Economic and Community Development Institute, told the Columbus Jewish News that small business owners must move quickly to secure federal Payroll Protection Program loans as funding will run out soon.

The program, which Kinney said has been integral to small businesses weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, is rapidly running out of funds. The fund, which has $65 billion, runs through $6 billion per day, meaning businesses likely have far less time than the May 31 deadline to obtain support, she said.

“It’s critical that whoever is interested in this applies immediately,” she said.

PPP funding consists of forgivable loans to help for-profit and non-profit businesses and religious institutions with 500 or fewer employees with operating expenses. These loans are forgivable if recipients meet several requirements, including spending at least 60% of the loan on payroll.

Ohio small businesses can turn to ECDI, headquartered in Columbus, for help applying for these funds and obtaining any other financial support and advice to either maintain a current business or start a new one, Kinney said.

Since March of this year, the group has helped businesses obtain nearly $12 million in PPP loans, with another $29 million in PPP funding in the pipeline undergoing federal review. ECDI has also distributed $22 million in its own loans since April 2020, she added.

The organization, which is an approved PPP administrator for Ohio, assists business owners in applying for funding through one-on-one support and a series of seminars and webinars. The workshops and webinars are available online, and people can also visit ECDI’s offices in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and Canton. Business owners seeking support can also find more information at ecdi.org.

ECDI provides its own loans to small businesses, ranging from $750 up to $500,000. Since 2004, the group has provided more than 15,000 loans with a value of close to $100 million.

ECDI provides PPP and other loan support, in part, through its partnerships with local governments, banks and foundations, Kinney said. Her group works closely with the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, including Commissioner Marilyn Brown and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. ECDI partners with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, PNC Bank and Fifth Third Bank. ECDI also receives funds from JewishColumbus, the Cleveland Foundation, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and other philanthropies.

Small businesses can also turn to ECDI for assistance with startups, Kinney said, adding that 30% of the group’s loans since April have gone to new companies. That support has contributed to new jobs being added during the pandemic rather than the losses she had anticipated. ECDI has helped create 2,000 new jobs since the pandemic began, and its grants have helped thousands of other people retain their jobs, she said.

Kinney, a 2020 Columbus Jewish News Difference Maker, said her experiences as both a Jew and an immigrant drove her passion for providing financial support and advice to underserved communities.

“The whole premise of the Jewish faith is for us to help others,” she said. “I always say we do God’s work.”

That includes helping “the other,” marginalized populations that may not have the same opportunities that some do.

“I think all the strife that we’re experiencing right now, more than ever, is due to inequities in life,” Kinney said. “You know, somebody’s born into an African American family, they don’t have as many resources available as somebody that’s white.”

As much as Judaism drives her, Kinney said her experience as an immigrant have always been a powerful motivator.

“Coming from the former Soviet Union in 1974, seeing the plight of my family in starting their own business, as well as other immigrants, has given me a vision to create an organization whose focus is to teach and support new and existing entrepreneurs,” she said. “We help those who want to work hard. They want to start a business that can realize the American dream. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s to me, the fundamental reason why I do what I do.”

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