A new program aimed at stabilizing small businesses and nonprofits during COVID -19

Major public, private philanthropic entities create initiative to support small businesses in Buffalo and Rochester

A new program aimed at stabilizing small businesses and nonprofits is being supported by some of the biggest public, private and philanthropic entities in Buffalo.

Open4 is meant to be an ongoing resource targeting companies in Buffalo and Rochester, according to an announcement today.

The program's newly unveiled website highlights four ways it plans to help, including:

• Connecting companies to available loans, grants and other sources of funding.

• Providing advisors who will support everything from marketing plans to pipeline development.

• Helping businesses work through issues and providing technical assistance in needed areas.

• Making personnel from community partners available to provide the operational and support staff.

Details are still coming together for Open4 and its partners are working to develop its specific parameters, according to the announcement. More information on the program is available here.

The program aims to be an "ongoing resource that is open for small businesses and nonprofits to receive long-term support, assistance and counsel; and to help small businesses and nonprofits remain open for their customers and constituents, even during the most difficult of circumstances,” said David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

Nearly $6 million has been committed to the program by the Wilson Foundation, KeyBank/First Niagara Foundation, M&T Bank, The John R. Oishei Foundation and Pegula Sports & Entertainment.

The program is meant to build off the near-term financial assistance provided by the state’s New York Forward Loan Fund, to which Evans Bank, M&T and the Wilson Foundation committed an additional $3.5 million.

Unveiled last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the $100 million Forward Loan Fund aims to provide loans for small businesses. It will focus on those owned by minorities and women that did not receive assistance through the federal CARES Act, such as the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Disaster Injury Loans.

The state is targeting businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in annual gross revenue. Business interested can visit the state's website.

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