El Paso County small businesses and nonprofits hit by the COVID-19 pandemic can access up to $25,000 in immediate recovery relief through a local fund announced this afternoon.

Survive & Thrive COS is an initiative of startup accelerator Exponential Impact in partnership with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and other community partners, businesses and local investors. 

“Because this is local dollars and administered on a local level, we will be able to turn around a one-page application … within a week,” Exponential Impact board member Hannah Parsons said at the announcement. 

Funding will be allocated over a three-month period, with a check payment each month totaling up to $25,000, she said.

“And because our goal is to help, not to hurt, we are not going to ask you to personally guarantee this; we are not going to require you to collateralize this loan; and we will not be standing in the way of any other funding that you might find available,” Parsons said. 

“Our goal is to make this no-barrier and to get funding into business hands as quickly as possible.”

The loans will be on a three-year repayment plan with no payments and zero percent interest in the first year, adding 1 percent in the second year, and an additional 1 percent in the third year. 

“Hopefully businesses will find this something that they can use quickly and that will not be cumbersome,” Parsons said. 

Small businesses employing two to 25 employees can visit to learn about criteria and apply.

Announcing the relief fund, Mayor John Suthers described Survive & Thrive COS as “quick first assistance.”

“As you know, last week Congress passed a $2.2 trillion package — obviously there’s a lot of aid for small businesses in that,” he said. “But I guarantee that will be more bureaucratic than a one-page application, and it will take a little more time. So this can be something to help people over a very short period of time, as they’re going through the process to get assistance from the Small Business Administration and other federal funds that are available.”

Beyond funding, Survive & Thrive COS participants will receive mentorship, education and tools tailored to their specific business concerns.

“Because funding seldom is the only solution, instead we will be working with our businesses, with our investors, with our mentors to identify what direct business assistance these companies need in addition to funding to make sure that they come out and have healthy businesses on the other side of this virus and this downturn,” Parsons said.

Although Survive & Thrive COS just went live, Parsons said, more than $1 million is already committed to the fund “and we’d like to get to $5 million as soon as possible.”

Survive & Thrive COS is the brainchild of Exponential Impact Chairman Vance Brown, who is also CEO for the National Cybersecurity Center. 

“We believe in and need our small businesses,” Brown said. “Survive & Thrive COS supports resiliency, builds community and develops healthy businesses and holistic leaders.”

Survive & Thrive COS funding comes from local investors, and because of its 501(c)3 status, Exponential Impact announced it is stewarding the funds without fees or overhead costs.

Gary Butterworth, CEO for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, said 100 percent of contributions are provided to small business owners through the recovery loans.

“Traditional emergency funding programs are often cumbersome and time consuming. Survive & Thrive COS delivers significant, immediate investment to local small business owners and nonprofits,” he said. “In Colorado, most of our business economy is comprised of small businesses. Thanks to intelligent and generous contributors, business owners are receiving funding now and sustained support.”

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, city economic development manager Bob Cope said, “it became very apparent that one of the most important priorities was to be able to provide financial assistance to our local businesses that have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

“They’ve been shut down, in some cases have no revenue — and their expenses still continue on,” Cope said. “So we’re very, very thankful to XI, Vance Brown, Hannah Parsons, [XI Executive Director] Natasha Main, Gary Butterworth and others who have put together Survive & Thrive.

“This is going to allow our local businesses to weather the storm, and when we are back — and we are going to be back — it’s going to put them in a position to be able to thrive.”

Cope said Survive & Thrive COS is “really the key component” in the funding assistance component of the city of Colorado Springs’ initial business relief package, released today.

Survive & Thrive COS’ oversight committee is: Pastor Ben Anderson (Solid Rock Community Development Corporation); Cindy Aubrey (Pikes Peak United Way); Vance Brown (Exponential Impact and NCC); Gary Butterworth (Pikes Peak Community Foundation); Dirk Draper (Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC); Bart Holaday (Dakota Foundation); Kyle Hybl (El Pomar Foundation); Phil Lane (Lane Foundation); and Hannah Parsons (Barn Owl).

This story has been updated.