UMEZ Partners with Grameen America to Provide Microloans to Entrepreneurs in East Harlem and Washington Heights

Maria, flower shop owner and Grameen America microloan borrower / Photo courtesy of Grameen America

Maria, flower shop owner and Grameen America microloan borrower / Photo courtesy of Grameen America

On February 22, 2019, UMEZ closed on a $4,000,000 loan and a $115,000 grant to Grameen America, Inc. to finance a new micro-lending program in East Harlem and to recapitalize their Washington Heights program. Grameen America, Inc. (GAI), a non-profit microfinance organization based in New York, was founded in 2008 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Its mission is to help alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship by providing loans, saving programs, credit establishment, and other services to under-served entrepreneurial women in the United States. All loans support small business activities including food carts, at-home catering businesses, or salon services. As of December 31, 2018, GAI’s Washington Heights branch had approximately $7.4 million in outstanding loans to over 4,200 borrowers helping to create or sustain more than 4,400 jobs.

This new loan follows a history of successful partnership between UMEZ and GAI. In 2010, UMEZ closed on its first loan to GAI to fund a pilot program in Washington Heights. After determining the scalability and overall impact of the pilot program, UMEZ provided a $3 million loan in 2012 to further expand its program in Washington Heights and Inwood. That loan was repaid earlier this year. UMEZ also provided a $500,000 loan in 2015 to extend the program to markets in West Harlem. Funds from that UMEZ loan have helped to create or sustain over 675 businesses.

“East Harlem and Washington Heights are vibrant business communities where entrepreneurs operate both home-based businesses and storefront shops. Our partnership with Grameen allows UMEZ to reach local entrepreneurs where they are so that we can provide them with the capital they need,” said Blair M. Duncan, President and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

The 2019 UMEZ loan will focus on expanding the outreach of Grameen’s lending platform into East Harlem and recapitalizing funding in Washington Heights and Inwood, both neighborhoods that have been historically under-financed, but have strong small business growth. The grant of $115,000 will help support Grameen’s operation of all Upper Manhattan programs. UMEZ is proud to continue its relationship with GAI to better serve and finance the needs of small businesses in all neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan.

“Our continued partnership with UMEZ allows us to further impact the East Harlem and Washington Heights communities by connecting underrepresented women entrepreneurs with the resources and capital needed to grow their businesses.”

- Alethia Mendez, Vice President of Operations and Program Strategy, Grameen America