Pride Month has officially come and gone. But I'll admit, this one has felt very different.

I've lived in Northern California for years, a historic center of the nation's LGBTQ+ community, and have marveled at the rainbows and parade floats that take over our streets each June. Every year, corporations big and small sign checks to support a cause, or to get their logo splashed across the front of a parade float as a sponsor. Those parades didn't happen this year, but regardless, this kind of support is critical. Still, the LGBTQ+ business community needs more from allies.

Services are needed now more than ever in the time of Covid-19, and my company, Hello Alice, has been running a grant program that offers small-business owners an emergency $10,000, including for the LGBTQ+ community. Part of the application process involves talking about the needs of your business.

It's crucial for business owners, including myself, to develop an understanding of this problem. Hello Alice has compiled anonymous owner data and released an Impact Report that lays out the demographics, demands, and necessary action items to make continued progress. We found that 5,000 LGBTQ+ founders across industries, 92 percent are asking for emergency grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. For more than a third of LGBTQ+ owners, this amount will determine whether or not their business survives the coronavirus crisis.

According to our partners at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), there are 1.4 million LGBTQ+ business owners in the United States, a group that collectively adds $1.7 trillion to the economy. We cannot afford to leave these businesses behind -- but it will take targeted solutions.

As with many segments of the New Majority, LGBTQ+ owners face unique barriers that make it difficult or even impossible for them to access capital. For one, the U.S. Census does not count LGBTQ+ individuals, limiting the ability of government programs to target the community. There also remains a startling lack of legal protections if an owner wants to pursue a traditional lending route. Even today, there are more than 35 states where it is perfectly legal for a bank or credit union officer to say, "We do not loan money to your kind."

I believe that business leaders should push legislators to change these unfair and unjust lending practices. Based on responses from our grant applicants, we must also demand immediate and sustained access to rent relief, tax deferrals, and tax waivers. But change takes time, and business owners need our help right now.  

On an individual level, owners can pursue Certified LGBT Business Enterprise designation from NGLCC -- the sole third-party that recognizes LGBTQ+ owners and maintains a robust supplier diversity initiative. Fellow business leaders must do their own part and make use of this registry to diversity their suppliers, as well as actively include the LGBTQ+ community in more professional networks and chambers of commerce.

Is the road ahead clear? Absolutely not. But with hard work and bold leadership, I think the result will be something we can all be truly proud of in partnership with our LGBTQ+ small business owners.