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Kaiser sponsors program to assist disadvantaged Northern California small businesses hurt during pandemic

Recognizing the link between economic prosperity and good health, Kaiser Permanente is sponsoring a small business training program to assist local residents in underserved communities overcome the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, which includes a tuition-free, 40 hour, “mini-MBA” program that offers executive training, webinars, coaching and connection to business capital, is part of a larger effort by Kaiser to invest in what the health care giant calls the “social determinants of health.”

It’s also an effort to address the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on disadvantaged communities, not only in terms of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths but also job losses and business closures, said Tommy Smith, Kaiser’s head of economic impact strategy.

“For us, it really is about investing in those communities with the worst health conditions and trying to bring health equity,” Smith said. “We know that health is wealth and wealth is health...that’s why we’re helping these companies get access to capital so they can create that wealth and address that health disparity.”

For the post-pandemic training program, Kaiser has tapped into its existing partnership with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, or ICIC, a national nonprofit research and advisory organization that’s been doing similar executive training work in America’s underserved communities since 1994.

The two organizations have since 2016 provided support to 1,786 businesses that have created 2,025 jobs. Of these businesses, 66% were minority-owned and 58% were owned by women, according to ICIC.

Matt Skryja, a Kaiser spokesman, said the program is being offered for the first time in Santa Rosa. Two cohorts of participants throughout Northern California are likely to include between 75 and 100 business owners each.

Past businesses helped by the program include restaurants, construction companies, day care centers, barber shops, youth boxing gyms and nonprofits, said Diego Portillo Mazal, director of ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections team.

Portillo Mazal said the criteria for participation includes having an established independently-owned business of more than three years and located in an under-served community.

“The goal of the program is to help those businesses understand what the language is around capital, understand who the partners are that they should be looking at,” he said.

The average revenue of businesses that have participated in the training program is a little more than $1 million a year. Portillo Mazal said the program has helped participants raise an average of $100,000 per business.

The deadline to nominate a business for the program has been extended through June 4 while individual business owners can apply through June 18. For more information, visit bit.ly/3hZccko.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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