On Dec. 6, before the packed gymnasium at Emancipation Park in Houston’s Third Ward, officials with the Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity and Wells Fargo announced the allocation of $5 million in grant funding for the first class of small businesses and nonprofits as part of the partnership’s Open For Business program.

This grant program was established by $20 million from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, which contributes capital to small businesses across the nation. The majority of the businesses to receive grants as part of the Dec. 6 announcement are owned by people of color.

Houston’s Equity Fund and Wells Fargo received more than 2,500 applicants and will be awarding 219 grants in total as part of the first round. Grants will range from $10,000 to $65,000 each, totaling $5 million.

This is the first of multiple rounds of grants to be awarded over a three-year period. The next application portal for small businesses and nonprofits to apply for grants will open in 2023, officials said.

“These grants are such incredible tools to not only help fund foundational change in the Houston community, but also empower and support diverse small business owners to innovate and evolve,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The collaboration between Wells Fargo and the Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity is so important in fostering economic development for our city.”

The Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity began after the death of George Floyd and after a similar initiative began in Boston.

“We are committed to bridging the economic equity gap in our city and supporting Houston’s underrepresented and underfunded minority-owned small businesses and nonprofit organizations,” said Thomas Jones, board president of the Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity. “Thanks to Wells Fargo’s generosity, we are making a monumental effect upon the lives and livelihoods of so many. Not only does this benefit these individuals and businesses, but it will help them make a lasting impact in our community.”

Funding from the program is estimated to reach 500 small businesses in Houston during its duration.