SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Small businesses make up nearly half of California’s total workforce, but many are frustrated by the COVID pandemic economic relief application process and say there still is not enough money to go around.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that in his 2021 budget, he is proposing another $575 million to add to the state’s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant, which would bring the total to more than $1 billion.
The office said the program offers grants up to $25,000 to micro and small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“$500 million sounds like a lot of money to anybody, because it is a lot of money, but when you spread that out to 4.1 million businesses, that’s $122 a business,” said Rory Cox, Founder and President of the San Francisco Small Business Alliance. “Now they say it’s going to be $5,000 to $25,000 grants to the businesses that are lucky enough to get it. First of all, the website has crashed on day one.”
Cox is also the co-owner of fitness studio YuBalance in San Francisco. He received PPP and disaster relief loans at the beginning of the pandemic. But the funding was not nearly enough to cover his costs. He considers himself to be one of the lucky ones, though he is barely limping by.
“The small business community is being strangled, we’re being strangled and just left for dead,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that we continue to not work and we continue to not get help.”
Cox says due to logistical problems, the high volume of applicants, and language barriers, only a tiny fraction of businesses who applied for private, state or federal loans and grants have actually received money.
San Jose’s Habana Cuba restaurant owner Jennifer Echeverri says it took her 5 days to successfully get on the state’s COVID-19 relief grant website.
“I got as far as filling out the first portion and then it bounced back with an email saying we’re overloaded right now,” she said.
She is still waiting for a $5,000 grant from DoorDash to help her survive the winter. She says the money was supposed to arrive before the end of 2020, and it still hasn’t.
“I mean my savings are gone already, I’m just surviving right now,” said Echeverri.
In a statement to KPIX 5, a spokesperson for DoorDash said:
“DoorDash has always supported restaurants and is proud of how our cold weather grants have helped restaurants who need it most. All grant winners were notified by Hello Alice in November and will receive their grants by the end of this month, as planned. Grants are being distributed on a daily basis, and we look forward to continuing our support of restaurants in San Jose and around the country.”
Hello Alice, a third party that is managing applications and the dispersal of funds, told KPIX 5:
“At Hello Alice, we have been working day and night to try and help as many businesses as possible survive this pandemic. We appreciate DoorDash and all of our funding partners generously offering grants. While industry standards for grant dissemination is up to six months, we have had volunteers working around the clock to review and award applicants to move the process up to as short as 30 to 60 days. Since there is always more need than funding, we are ensuring every applicant also receives mentorship and access to the covid19businesscenter.com to help them through this tough time. We are thrilled that a third of the San Jose restaurants received their funding back in December and the rest will be distributed within two weeks. ”
This week, Santa Clara County also announced a new small business program offering low-interest loans of up to $100,000 through the California Rebuilding Fund. The program is a partnership proposed by County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Susan Ellenberg.
“We announced this new partnership precisely because we want people to have access to the funds now, and folks can’t hang on any longer, we’re losing businesses with every passing day,” said Santa Joe Simitian.
The loans range from $2,000 to $100,000. There is a 4.25% interest rate and a 3- or 5-year term option.
To learn more about the program or begin the application process for a loan, please visit: caloanfund.org.
For more information on the state’s COVID-19 Relief Grant Program requirements and eligibility, please visit careliefgrant.com.