The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) is partnering with the Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center and Start Small Think Big on the COVID-19 Pro Bono Collaborative, an initiative to provide free legal assistance to small businesses in Northern Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic, including help with federal assistance, grant and loan programs, leases and employment issues.
Consisting of a network of trusted top-tier law firms, corporations and other legal service providers, the COVID-19 Pro Bono Collaborative provides a highly coordinated, emergency response to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations survive the economic impact of COVID-19. This collaborative is providing remote legal and financial clinics and one-on-one sessions on the COVID-19 stimulus package and similar programs as well as COVID-19 related legal issues.
Any small business owner can complete this form to request a COVID-19 consultation with a volunteer attorney or financial professional. These consultations will be conducted via phone or video. Initial consultations will last one to two hours, depending on a business owner’s specific needs, with the option for follow-up consultations as necessary.
“The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is delighted to partner in this initiative for providing free legal assistance to small businesses that have been harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins. “During this unprecedented time, so many businesses have been hit adversely and may need help with navigating the CARES Act, the PPP loan process, local funding programs and more. I thank Start Small Think Big and the Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center for bringing this program to Northern Virginia, and I commend all the attorneys in the region who will generously volunteer their time to help small businesses weather this economic downturn and emerge stronger on the other side.”
The initiative dovetails with programs that Fairfax County has instituted, such as the Small Business Microloan Fund and the Fairfax RISE small business and nonprofit relief grant fund, to help small businesses bridge the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
“We know that many of our small businesses need and want assistance of all types to survive the economic downturn created by the pandemic, so I am delighted to see our Economic Development Authority work with the Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center and Start Small Think Big to provide a valuable set of free legal services,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay.
Headquartered in New York City, Start Small Think Big is a small business nonprofit that has focused on helping entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities since its establishment in 2010. Prior to the pandemic it operated mainly in New York and California, but pivoted to helping all small businesses in other locations when the pandemic hit.
The Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center’s mission is to provide free legal assistance to those most in need in the region, with the goal of providing broad-based access to justice. Through the Law Center, lawyers donate their time and expertise to assist with a wide variety of legal issues. Funding for the Law Center is provided through the Fairfax Law Foundation.
“The Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center is honored to be part of this new project to help our local small businesses survive, and then begin to thrive again, despite the challenges of this time,” said Law Center Director of Pro Bono Activities Arlene Beckerman. “By providing free legal assistance, not only will we be helping each individual business that contributes to the economy, but we will be helping the entire community and those people who rely on these businesses to support themselves and their families. We are grateful to the generous and giving members of our legal community, who volunteer their time and expertise to help at this difficult time.”
While both organizations focused on helping low income individuals start and sustain businesses prior to the pandemic, the COVID-19 Pro Bono Collaborative program is available to all small business owners.
“Before this crisis hit Start Small was offering legal services, as well as financial and marketing services, to low income, underserved, traditionally underprivileged entrepreneurs and small business owners. In response to the crisis we felt that almost every small business owner was now lower-income than they were before,” said Smart Small Think Big Legal Program Director Alex Stepick. “And so while our core service delivery is still focused on those groups that are truly low-income to begin with, and especially coming from low income or underserved communities, this program was built to assist anybody who has a small business and is in need of help.”
“We’re here to advance social justice by helping small-business owners,” Stepick added.
Regionally, Start Small also began to help businesses in Washington, D.C., in March through a partnership with the D.C. Bar Association.