Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s Community Economic Development Unit is Making Dreams A Reality For Small-Business Owners
Under the Florida Community Development Legal Project (FCDL), Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s (LASBC) Community Economic Development Unit has had the opportunity to help build stronger communities by providing free and low-cost legal services to eligible nonprofit corporations and small businesses serving low-to-moderate-income (LMI) areas in the county. Through this initiative, supported by the Jerry Taylor and Nancy Bryant Fund of the Community Foundation of Broward, participating Florida legal aid organizations, The Florida Bar Foundation, and other generous donors, Legal Aid has opened case files for 30 small businesses and 19 nonprofits in Broward County, to date.
Thanks to our longstanding relationships with organizations such as the Urban League of Broward County and the Central County Community Development Corporation, which operates several small business education and mentoring programs, Legal Aid is connected with numerous minority and women-owned businesses in need of counsel. Many of these entrepreneurs are leading ambitious business undertakings, and as part of our mission we’re dedicated to helping them overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
In the first four months of 2021, we represented dozens of organizations and businesses – from education and tutoring centers, medical services practices, and insurance brokerages, to nail salons, spas, and business marketing consultants. Two of our most impactful stories involve a local restaurant and a salon.
We are proud of being able to assist a minority and woman-owned restaurant and urban garden bringing healthy eating to the food desert located in the historic Black neighborhood of Sistrunk Boulevard in central Fort Lauderdale, one of the poorest census tract neighborhoods in the city. The founder is bringing her passion in holistic health, nutrition and organic gardening to create an outside-the-box concept in the now burgeoning neighborhood, with the mission of offering wholesome fare, and educational components to teach community members how to grow fresh produce and cook nutritiously. We were able to help jumpstart her dream by assisting with lease negotiations with a rigid real estate developer, while providing counsel on best practices for navigating complicated landlord-tenant contracts. On the construction front, we advised the client on expediting the submission of blueprints and permits, and began the bid process for the general contractor and subcontractors to ensure she signed an agreement to fairly protect her interests and not just those of the construction professionals. We’re also currently drafting an operations agreement delineating company management and assisting with succession planning necessary to protect the business in unforeseen circumstances.
We also are proud of helping to save a hair salon that had been operating for ten years in the very same location. The minority and woman-owned salon was forced to close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a significant loss of revenue, the salon was unable to pay rent and fell behind on several months. Faced with an eviction notice for non-payment, the salon reached out to Legal Aid with hopes of saving their business from a permanent closure. Our legal team stepped in and was able to negotiate for the salon to remain in the unit while awaiting an answer from the Small Business Administration about an EIDL loan and from Broward County about a CARES Act grant. Despite the excruciatingly slow process of obtaining grants, Legal Aid attorneys were able to keep the business operating in the premises as it continued to recover. As the process continues we’re confident the salon will receive the requested loan, allowing our attorneys to renegotiate the owed lease balance so the business can resume normal payment terms and continue to operate a successful salon for years to come.
bly grateful for the generous contribution of our local community partners and organizations that keep our program afloat and with resources to serve individuals in our city that are most in need. Through this program, and with the continued support of donors, Legal Aid Services of Broward County aspires to continue on its mission of helping entrepreneurs create wealth, social stability, and economic opportunity in low-income minority neighborhoods in Broward County.