Since the spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, pandemic, many small businesses have been struggling to stay afloat amid mandatory closures with state-issued stay-at-home orders. Now many nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups have been pushing for relief initiatives designated for African American business owners who have been among some of the hardest hit by the economic loss caused by the public health crisis. Another group that has been stepping up has been black-owned institutions in the financial world.
OneUnited Bank is the largest black-owned bank in the country and it has been working extra hard to provide its customers and other black-owned businesses with the resources they need to weather the viral outbreak. BLACK ENTERPRISE was able to talk with Teri Williams, president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank about the new initiatives it has for COVID-19 relief and advice on how black business owners can navigate this public health crisis.
In addition to PPP funding, Williams explains how the banking institution has been given additional funds as a minority depository institution to be used for black-owned businesses. Many of its new customers have been previously denied assistance at larger banks.
“The first round [ended up] turning out exactly as we [suspected]…they gave the larger banks, it’s sort of a heads up to offer the program quickly and the funds were taken by their large customers quickly…so we were glad to see that this second round, they actually did put some funds aside for us,” said Williams. She also says she sees an increase in older customers asking about online resources like mobile banking as they shelter in place.
“Customers are becoming more comfortable with online and mobile banking as we’ve been forced as a community to stay home,” said Williams. “We’ve had a lot of older customers come in to have us help them get set up on mobile banking so that they can do their banking from home as opposed to taking the health risks of coming into the branch.”
One of her biggest pieces of advice is for customers to get more comfortable utilizing more online resources to make working remotely easier and more efficient. “[A] recommendation is to definitely view online and social media as your friend to try to figure out ways to take advantage of online offerings and social media because people are becoming much more comfortable with doing business online.”