Check out our FAQ for more information.

+ What is the Empowerment Zone?

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation (“UMEZ”) was formed in response to the designation by the federal government of portions of the Central, East and West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood sections of New York City as an urban empowerment zone (the “Zone”) pursuant to legislation passed in 1994. In December 2001, Congress approved a five-year extension of the New York Empowerment Zone designations through December 31, 2009. Since then, the legislation has been extended retroactively periodically. These extensions enable businesses located in the Zone to take advantage of available tax incentives. The fundamental goal in the designation of this and other empowerment zones is to stimulate and promote economic growth, job opportunities, business expansion and investment in these communities. UMEZ’s ongoing operations are not dependent on the extension of the Zone designation. UMEZ expects to continue to operate after the Zone designation expires. The Organization disburses and administers funds to selected recipients in the form of loans and grants.

+ How is UMEZ lending different from a bank’s?

UMEZ lends to qualified existing and start-up businesses in Upper Manhattan. Unlike traditional bank lenders or the SBA, we generally do not focus solely on credit scores or require two years of operations. While some collateral is pledged by the borrower, we do not require our loans to be 100% collateralized by your personal assets.

+ What is BRISC?

The Business Resource and Investment Service Center, Inc. (BRISC) is a not-for-profit organization funded and staffed by UMEZ with a separate board of directors. It was established to fill the space between microcredit and business loans for Upper Manhattan entrepreneurs. BRISC offers term loans or a line of credit to qualified entrepreneurs in Upper Manhattan. The typical term loan size is $50,000 to $250,000 with a competitive fixed rate and a five year term. Alternatively, a line of credit ranges from $25,000 to $100,000 representing up to ten percent (10%) of an existing businesses gross revenues.

+ What types of funding does UMEZ offer?

UMEZ offers loans to businesses and commercial development projects and grants to nonprofit organizations and artist-driven projects.

+ What is the application process? How long does it take to get funding?

The process and duration depend on the type of funding sought. The following are the types of financing we offer:

  • Businesses seeking term loans between $50,000 and $250,000 and lines of credit ranging from $25,000 to $100,000
  • Businesses or developers seeking funding from $1 million to $10 million
  • Cultural nonprofits or artist-driven projects seeking grant support may click here to learn more about Cultural Investments.

+ Does UMEZ provide start-up capital to businesses?

UMEZ selectively finances start-up business opportunities. Emphasis is placed on the entrepreneurial experience of the management team, the quality and completeness of the business plan and financial projections, and the level of equity investment by the entrepreneurs.

+ I want to move my business to a new location. Why would I want to relocate my business to the empowerment zone?

The area’s rapid population growth and income growth has transformed Upper Manhattan into an ideal location for business expansion. In addition to benefiting from the improving economic trends, qualified businesses may be eligible for various federal, state, and local tax and financial incentives; technical assistance; and hiring assistance. You can also learn more about tax incentives for large and small businesses offered by New York City and New York State by visiting our List of Recommended Resources for Businesses.

+ Does UMEZ finance any programs to help residents with their housing needs?

No. Each neighborhood in Upper Manhattan has housing programs, including housing counseling, home repairs, and loans to support housing development. These programs are operated by other organizations. You can seek assistance from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

+ Does UMEZ provide financial assistance to develop housing?

Generally, No. Developers interested in programs that create housing opportunities for low-income individuals or home ownership opportunities should contact the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. HPD-administered activities include programs for producing new housing, acquiring and maintaining existing occupied housing, and providing housing and service delivery for people with specialized affordable housing and service needs.


 Photo: Rosemary Santos

Photo: Rosemary Santos

If your question was not answered here, please contact us.

Banner photo by Rosemary Santos