Mayor Andre Dickens announced June 14 a new $5.7 million Atlanta Recovery Loan Program to help small businesses. (Invest Atlanta)

A new $5.7 million low-interest loan program aims to help Atlanta small businesses build wealth and avoid displacement in a turbulent economic market. The program is part of a city initiative to especially assist racially and ethnically diverse business owners who have been disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Named the Atlanta Recovery Loan Program (ARLP), it is the first of four initiatives United Way of Greater Atlanta in collaboration with Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, will roll out as a part of the “Atlanta Open for Business Fund” supported by a $20 million donation by Wells Fargo. 

Fed Small Business, which includes small business research and analysis by the 12 Reserve Banks of the Federal Reserve System, reported last year that 93% of Asian-owned firms were most likely to report an expected sales decline in 2020 due to the pandemic. Sales declines were also reported by 86% and 85% of Black- and Hispanic-owned firms, respectively, while 79% of white-owned firms reported a decrease in sales, according to the report.

“Without adequate financing to survive disruptions like the pandemic, most small businesses struggle to maintain their companies, let alone attain assets to grow them,” Mayor Andre Dickens said in a news release. “This program will serve as yet another invaluable asset to help Atlantans build a resilient foundation for their companies.”  

The maximum ARLP direct loan amount is $25,000 to $100,000 at an interest rate not to exceed 3% for no more than seven years. Eligible businesses include existing businesses with less than 500 employees, partnerships or sole proprietorships, and non-profits with a focus on diverse-led or supporting diverse communities. Businesses in all commercial areas in the city of Atlanta, including those operating on City of Atlanta-owned property are eligible.

“This resource is a strategy to help small businesses purchase commercial property and assets for growth so they can develop generational wealth and increase economic mobility that enhances their communities,” said Dr. Eloisa Klementich, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, in the news release.

Added Milton Little, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta: “The Atlanta Recovery Loan program will help advance a more equitable recovery from the pandemic by lifting the barriers of race and ZIP code that can impede many entrepreneurs from converting increased income into wealth.”

Other Atlanta Open for Business initiatives to be announced later this year are:

• Asset Building Assistance – working with nonprofit organizations, including in south and west Atlanta, this effort will enlist experts to craft asset-building strategies for roughly 200 small businesses, such as moving from renting or leasing commercial space to owning it.

• Façade Improvement Grants – grants of up to $50,000 for exterior improvements for small businesses that have the ability to contribute a 20% match to their project.

• Commercial Ownership Growth – capital to help small business owners facing rising rental costs, including down payment assistance grants of up to $200,000 for purchase of commercial real estate.

To learn more about the Atlanta Recovery Loan Program and to apply, businesses should visit

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.