CINCINNATI – Fifth Third Bank, National Association, has announced the launch of the Greater Cincinnati COVID-19 Small Business Response and Recovery Initiative to ensure the success of small businesses in Hamilton County. The Initiative will provide small businesses of 25 or fewer employees (with an emphasis on small businesses with five or fewer employees) in low-to-moderate income communities that have been impacted by the pandemic with advice and pathways to accessing capital, via the Initiative’s loan and grant programs.

Fifth Third has invested an initial $700,000; additional funding partner Greater Cincinnati Foundation has invested $250,000 and JPMorgan Chase has invested $100,000. The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber are founding business service organizations that will provide technical assistance to participating businesses. Additional business service organizations are the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative. Referral partners for the Initiative are the Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA and HCDC, Inc.

The effort will be powered by Next Street, an advisory firm that assists small businesses with accessing capital and technical assistance. The National Development Council has been involved in the planning and design of the Initiative and will serve as the fiscal agent and will also assist in additional fundraising efforts.

“Fifth Third is proud to support this effort. It provides a vital opportunity to coordinate and leverage expertise across the region to help small businesses rebound from the devastating impacts that COVID-19 has had on our economy,” said Kala Gibson, Fifth Third’s head of Business Banking.  “This initiative has great potential to positively impact the long-term small business ecosystem by building new capacity for business service organizations and provides an end-to-end solution for small businesses in our region.”

The key components of the Initiative include:

  • Technical Assistance Program that will assess applicant small business needs, match businesses with recommended assistance via one of the business service organizations participating in the Initiative, and provide online education and resources.
  • Small Business Liquidity Fund to provide responsible loans to small businesses ready to receive capital.

In the future there will be a program to provide grants to small businesses that do not have capacity for debt.

The overall economic toll from COVID-19 on small businesses and their employees has been immense and will disproportionately affect underserved small businesses, especially those that are women- and minority-owned. Next Street estimates that nearly 70,000 Hamilton County businesses with fewer than 25 employees will be negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic with more than 10,000 of those in low- to moderate-income communities. Many businesses have already been forced to close, and without assistance others will be forced to close in the future, lay off employees, or take on expensive capital that will threaten their resilience. This Initiative will offer support for these entrepreneurs to keep their businesses running.

“Small business owners open their doors every day, which allows their employees the opportunity to earn wages to take care of their families.  Many of these employees live directly in the neighborhoods that those small businesses serve. This Initiative makes resources available to those who take care of our communities,” said Mike Smith, head of business banking for Fifth Third’s Cincinnati region. “Fifth Third is proud to collaborate with JPMorgan Chase, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the business service organizations to launch this program.”

Experts from the partner organizations involved in the Initiative will be providing their technical assistance resources as well as potential funding options to the small businesses that are eligible for the Initiative. By pooling the expertise of the partner organizations, the Initiative’s goal is to efficiently deliver resources and reach a broader group of small businesses across Greater Cincinnati. The variety of partners will also ensure that a diverse population is assisted and an expanded number of businesses are served.

“The Initiative is a welcome respite for all small businesses, acknowledging that small minority-owned businesses have been inordinately impacted by the pandemic. The African American Chamber is happy to partner in this Fifth Third Bank initiative to help businesses reset, rebuild and recover,” said Eric Kearney, president and CEO of the African American Chamber.

“We have a standing commitment to support the people, businesses and communities that help Cincinnati thrive, said Amoury Hollins, Southwest Ohio Area Manager, Business Banking for JPMorgan Chase. “Small businesses across our region have been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, particularly those owned by people of color and women, and will require access to resources and on-going support as they navigate the future.”

To learn more about the Initiative and to apply, please send an e-mail to or visit