The social network Facebook is stepping up to support small businesses in Greater Boston that are struggling to survive the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The company will hand out $625,000 in grants to 156 local companies, or about $4,000 each. It’s part of a $100 million worldwide effort to shield small businesses against the epidemic, which has devastated the global economy.
“We needed to play our small part in whatever way we could to support the community," said Diana Doukas, Facebook’s manager for economic impact. “It wasn’t even a question.”
At the same time, the grant program can help protect Facebook’s own business model by propping up small businesses which often purchase online ads through Facebook.
The grant program will be managed on Facebook’s behalf by Ureeka, a company that provides financing and mentoring to small businesses. The grants will include $2,500 in cash and $1,500 in advertising credits that a company can use to promote its products and services on Facebook. In effect, almost one-third of each grant will cost Facebook nothing, though the advertising could be of considerable value to a cash-strapped small business. In all, Facebook has set aside $40 million to provide assistance to 10,000 US businesses, with the remaining $60 million to be allocated throughout the rest of the world.
The grants are targeted at US communities where Facebook has a physical presence, such as offices or a data center housing the company’s computer systems. Facebook operates 34 such locations in the United States.
Companies have until Friday to apply for a grant at facebook.com/grantsforbusiness. The program is open to companies regardless of whether they currently advertise with Facebook. To qualify for the program, a company must have been in business for at least one year and have between 2 and 50 employees. Companies must also be able to show that the COVID-19 epidemic has had a significant negative effect on the business.
Apart from the grant program, Facebook has also set up a website that provides advice to small companies on how to weather the crisis, and links to other resources, such as the loans from the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program.
Facebook is one of several major tech corporations offering grants to small businesses during the crisis. Other companies include Google, GoFundMe, and Verizon. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has set up a website that provides information on small business grants and loans at covidcap.com.