Magic Johnson is offering $100 million in loans to minority and women-owned small businesses

Most minority owned small businesses were not able to take advantage of the short-term loans being offered by the federal government during the onset of the coronavirus. Thankfully, basketball legend Magic Johnson is here to help.

Many people may not know this, but Johnson has become an incredibly successful businessman since retiring from the NBA. In an era when professional athletes are increasingly focused on building their "personal brands," Johnson was a true pioneer. Rather than simply squeezing every last dollar out of traditional corporate endorsements, he has integrated personal principles into his business ventures. For example, in the early 1990's the Johnson Development Group launched Magic Johnson Theaters, a chain of cutting-edge movie theaters in urban centers that were often ignored by the national theater chains. Johnson eventually sold his stake in the chain to AMC but they've left a lasting imprint in black and other minority communities.

Now, Johnson is using his sizable clout as a celebrity investor to help out minority owned businesses that have struggled to acquire small business loans during the coronavirus.

According to CNBC, Johnson has partnered with MBE Capital Partners to source $100 million in loans to minority and women-owned small businesses. The loans will be distributed through the same federal government program that is currently issuing small business loans but will be earmarked to target businesses in need.

"This will allow them to keep their employees and keep their doors open," Johnson said in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box."



"We have to remember that these businesses have been in urban communities for a long time," Johnson told CNBC. "They've been doing great things, and they probably didn't have a relationship with the banks when the stimulus package went out. So now, we're able to say, 'Hey, you can have a relationship with us.'"

A representative for MBE said the loans could help as many as 100,000 small businesses over the coming months, with an application process that is meant to simplify and expedite a process that has often been criticized as overly complicated and slow.

Even better, MBE CEO Rafael Martinez said the program could be expanded to upwards of $1 billion.

"There is a ton of money left," he said.

As Johnson himself noted, getting money to minority and women owned small businesses isn't just important for the economy. As numerous reports have shown, minority communities are the hardest hit by the coronavirus. That's likely due to a number of reasons including lack of access to health care, lack of health nutrition and equal educational opportunities that facilitate healthier lifestyles. Simply put, financial resources are directly tethered to a community's health. Keeping people employed and building economic resources aren't just the right thing to do, they are imperative to offset the incredible damage done to these communities by the coronavirus and to help build a foundation to buffer them against the next crisis.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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