Collaborative ‘Help Main Street’ Database Will Give Financial Aid To Local Businesses

Small businesses have gotten a leg up with the new Help Main Street site.

A collaborative effort by startup Lunchbox and activist investors Eniac Ventures will aim to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic by providing a way to support them, according to a report by TechCrunch.

Called Help Main Street, the idea is to compile a database of businesses that offer gift cards or other similar items. Users can browse the ones near them and make selections on which to purchase to use later, once the coronavirus has receded. Square payments are also an option.

According to Nihal Mehta of Eniac, the Help Main Street idea is a way to help small businesses while also practicing the social distancing procedures of staying away from places where lots of people usually gather.

The program helps in two ways. First, it aids small businesses that have taken a blow from the virus’ impact as bars, restaurants and other stores are ordered to close to help stop the spread. Second, it can “some nervous anxiety” while people are confined at home with nowhere to go, Mehta said.

The site was created by Lunchbox’s engineers, who went through restaurant websites and added them to the database, which sits at 20,000 listings as of Wednesday (March 18). Mehta said chambers of commerce, small business associations and individuals can all add their own listings as well.

Mehta said the hope is to create a vital crowd-sourcing tool and described it as “Patreon for merchants.” He added he hopes the idea will inspire others to create similar funds for other areas of need during the virus spread and quarantine time.

The coronavirus has thrown the U.S. economy into disarray in a matter of days, with numerous states acting quickly to require all restaurants and bars to close. In the aftermath, other companies have pitched in for relief, and larger apps and institutions are waiving fees of service.