Charter to Invest $10M to Support Black-Owned Small Businesses

Charter Communications said it will invest $10 million in a partnership with the National Urban League and the National Action Network to support Black and minority-owned businesses in underserved communities.

Charter’s Spectrum Community Investment Fund will invest $3 million in the National Urban League’s Urban Empowerment Fund, which will make individual loans to minority-owned small businesses. In addition, Charter will invest another $3 million in low-interest loans directly to community development investment funds (CDFIs), under the direction of the National Action Network.

Charter also will provide $3.5 million in PSA value to promote its partners’ Spectrum Community Investment Fund opportunities, and will contribute a $500,000 capacity grant to the National Urban League for revitalizing its CDFI platform including funding for staffing, infrastructure, and operations.

“In all communities, small business ownership and growth are fundamental to developing and sustaining economic power, which is critical to their long-term success,” Charter chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said in a press release. “Building on our valued partnerships with the National Urban League and National Action Network, these investments will support small diverse-owned businesses through access to much-needed low-interest capital and help build thriving communities across the country.”

As the Urban League’s small business lending subsidiary, the Urban Empowerment Fund provides loans and coaching to minority-owned businesses that provide jobs and revenue to economically distressed areas and other underserved communities.

"Small Black-owned businesses, a primary economic driver in Black neighborhoods, are less likely to be approved for loans than their White-owned counterparts, and when they are approved, they receive smaller amounts and at higher interest rates,” said National Urban League CEO Marc H. Morial in a press release. “As we face the most daunting economic landscape since the Great Depression, committed and enlightened partners like Charter are more valued than ever before. Charter is helping the National Urban League build stronger and more stable communities that create opportunity for prosperity."

Charter launched the Loan Fund in February, committing to invest an initial $10 million in capital by the end of 2021 by making low-interest loans through CDFIs to small businesses whose goods and services help meet core needs in underserved communities within Charter’s 41-state operating footprint. With the addition of the investment partnerships with the Urban League and NAN, Charter’s Loan Fund commitment has increased to $13 million, and the Urban Empowerment Fund investment represents the fourth made by the Loan Fund in the past four months. Charter previously announced $1 million investments in Pursuit Community Finance in New York, PeopleFund in Texas, and the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) in Ohio. Over the next year, the Loan Fund expects to invest an additional $4 million across CDFIs in California, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin, in addition to the $3 million into CDFIs as directed by NAN.

In addition to the loans, each CDFI receives a grant to fund technical assistance programs and professional training for small businesses. These grants have recently been made to provide support to businesses impacted by COVID-19.

“In order to achieve the economic equality we want to see, we need to support our Black businesses and our Black entrepreneurs,” said NAN founder Reverend Al Sharpton in a press release. “For too long, our talented Black communities have been deprived of low interest loans, capital and a myriad of resources to help Black businesses thrive and prosper, a reality that has lasted decades inhibiting us from playing and competing in a level playing field. This partnership is one more step to address the systemic scarcity in our communities and to underscore much needed investment to turn the tide of inequity.”

News of the investment comes on the same day that Comcast settled a $20 billion lawsuit brought by Entertainment Studios chairman and CEO Byron Allen and the National Association of African American Owned Media in 2015, claiming Comcast conspired to keep African American owned networks off its systems. Allen has a similar active $10 billion suit against Charter, filed in 2016, that claims carriage discrimination.