Card giants unleash COVID-19 war chest to support SMEs
by Ben Poole
This month, both Mastercard and Visa have committed significant funds - totalling US460m - to support SMEs that are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the stress than the pandemic is putting on critical business systems, Mastercard has committed US$250m to support small business’ financial security. As part of the commitment, the company will provide access to necessary resources to help protect businesses and employees through free cyber vulnerability assessments and identity theft protection for the 28 million small businesses eligible to participate in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (SBA PPP). Leveraging its data and insights, Mastercard will provide US small business owners access to its Local Market Intelligence solution, in order to help them understand spending trends in their communities.
Many small businesses have quickly moved their activities online and with this comes increased exposure to cyber threats. To address this, Mastercard will help small business owners understand the cyber vulnerabilities of their system. Based on an initial assessment, Mastercard says it will partner with them to prioritise the issues that need to be fixed first, with specific guidance on how to repair critical vulnerabilities. The company is also offering identity theft protection for both small business owners and their employees to help them navigate any potential attacks. Both services from Mastercard will be offered at no cost for three months.
“The challenges facing small business owners right now are many, including keeping their business afloat while, in many instances, supporting their employees through this crisis,” said Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Hello Alice. “If we’re going to navigate this epidemic, we need fast-acting, decisive support from both the private and public sectors who act collaboratively in helping to solve these challenges. We’re honoured to be a part of Mastercard’s ongoing work to support the small business community and even more so to see them stepping up when times are hardest to ensure that we all come through this stronger on the other side.”
“When our small businesses suffer our nation suffers, so it is incumbent upon all to ensure that we’re supporting the businesses who are the lifeblood of our economy and pillars of our communities,” said Michael Miebach, president of Mastercard. “We are leveraging our network, insights, technology and partnerships to deliver the resources small business owners need now to help them sustain their business as they quickly adapt to a new way of operating and evolved customer needs.”
On the Visa side, the Visa Foundation announced a commitment of two programmes totalling US$210m to support small and micro businesses, aligning with the Foundation’s long-term focus on women’s economic advancement and inclusive economic development, and to address an urgent need from local communities following the spread of COVID-19.
The first programme of US$10m is designated for immediate emergency relief to support charitable organisations on the frontlines responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as public health and food relief, in each of the five geographic regions in which Visa operates: North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Europe; Asia Pacific; and Central Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“As COVID-19 continues to unfold, communities are feeling the effects and need our immediate support,” said Al Kelly, CEO and chairman of Visa. “As a global company that operates a very local business, we recognise this need. We’re also committed to the long-term recovery and will continue to explore ways we can accelerate economic activity in line with our mission to help individuals, businesses and economies thrive.”
The second programme is a five-year, US$200m commitment to support small and micro businesses around the world, with a focus on fostering women’s economic advancement. This action expands the Visa Foundation’s long-standing support for small and micro businesses globally. The funds from the Visa Foundation will provide capital to non-government organisations (NGOs) and investment partners supporting small and micro businesses.
Through the US$200m small and micro business programme, the Visa Foundation will provide US$60m in grants to NGOs dedicated to supporting small and micro business owners, many of whom are women, in every region where Visa operates. The Visa Foundation will also allocate US$140m with investment partners that generate positive social and financial returns for small and micro businesses.
“Two hundred million dollars in new financial resources demonstrates our continuing commitment to support small and micro businesses, with a focus on women’s economic advancement globally,” said Graham Macmillan, President of the Visa Foundation. “When women thrive, communities thrive. We know this matters now more than ever as the global economy seeks to recover and rebuild.”
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