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Comcast yesterday announced the Comcast RISE program that will offer grants, marketing and technology upgrades to small businesses.

The company said the Comcast RISE initiative was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a particularly hard toll on small businesses. Citing a National Bureau of Economic Research report, Comcast said that the number of active small business owners dropped by 3.3 million between February and April.

Black-owned small businesses were among the hardest hit, dropping by 41%. The number of Hispanic and Asian American-owned small businesses also fell sharply.

The Comcast RISE program is part of the company’s $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative.

“While many businesses have responded by moving online or retrofitting to allow for social distancing, many Black business owners have had to halt their operations completely,” said Ron Busby, President/CEO, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., in a prepared statement “Comcast RISE will help Black businesses adapt to the changing landscape and position them to be leaders in America’s burgeoning online to offline economy.”

Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on minority-owned small businesses, Comcast will launch the program in different stages. Starting yesterday, U.S.-based black-owned small businesses can apply for marketing and technology support and equipment, while all small businesses can apply for free marketing insights and resources. The next stage of the program will expand eligibility for all facets to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

“We see and know firsthand how vital small businesses are in powering economic growth, recovery and innovation. Now more than ever, driving awareness and maintaining a strong digital presence are crucial for these businesses to succeed,” said Teresa Ward-Maupin, Comcast Business senior vice president of digital and customer experience, in a prepared statement. “We created Comcast RISE to give these business owners access to the tools and resources they need to survive the pandemic and thrive.”

Comcast is also offering to help businesses in other way, announcing a webinar series last month to help companies of all sizes navigate the current environment, including strategies on how to rethink their short- and long-term goals and leverage technology to remain productive and nimble with their operations.

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