Jahmal Cole Credit: My Block, My Hood, My City

CHICAGO — My Block, My Hood, My City has raised $1 million for small businesses hurt by recent looting, vandalism and the coronavirus pandemic.

Jahmal Cole, who founded the group, started the Small Business Relief Fund last week as more than 230 businesses reached out to My Block, My Hood, My City to ask for assistance, reporting millions of dollars in damage after recent unrest. Officials have said some people used protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis to loot and vandalize stores.

Donors rushed to help, giving $1 million to the fund in just two days. The average donation size was $68. People who want to donate to the fund or sign up to get relief for their small business can do so online.

That money will be used to help the businesses make repairs, said Cole, who added many of the businesses affected by the looting don’t have the money to make the repairs they need to reopen.

Most of Chicago’s small businesses only have 28 days’ worth of cash on hand, and that drops to 17 days for businesses on the South and West sides, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday. They’ve been struggling with those low cash reserves because many have been closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now, on top of that, they’re trying to make repairs and restock.

The businesses that need help are diverse and located all over the city, Cole said.

“I’m talking about businesses from diamond stores Downtown to food trucks in Garfield Park,” Cole said.

But the fund will focus on Black-owned businesses and areas of Chicago which have been underserved in the past, Cole said. And they’ll focus more on essential businesses, like stores with healthy foods, over spots like liquor stores, Cole said.

“We definitely gotta be looking at African American businesses that have been impacted …,” Cole said. “We’re looking at South and West sides.”

Looking past the fund, Cole wants to train these small businesses in online commerce techniques and digital marketing. He sees this as a more longterm way to support small businesses in Chicago.

And Cole said businesses of all sizes that support My Block, My Hood, My City have a role to play in helping people of color by committing to hiring more Black employees to eliminate racial discrimination in their workplace.

“Talking to the businesses that support us, we need to make sure they’re promoting Black people on their boards,” Cole said. “We need to make sure they’re promoting Black managers, Black HR people, because discrimination happens through those channels, too.”

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