By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (CBS F) — A San Jose Planning Commissioner called on city officials Monday to use federal COVID-19 American Rescue Plan funds to give businesses a much needed economic boost in a neighborhood that has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rolando Bonilla is a business owner, East Side resident and member of the Planning Commission. He sees the devastating impact of the pandemic while taking a stroll in his neighborhood.

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“All you have to do is walk up and down our business corridors to see how negatively impacted East San Jose is,” Bonilla told KPIX 5.

On Alum Rock Avenue, two new businesses have started up under canopies in the parking lots of two restaurants that didn’t survive the pandemic.

“Ocho horas, siete dias,” Maria Elena Nunez said.

She works 8 hours a day, seven days a week at a neighborhood fruit stand in the parking lot. She’d rather have a permanent location, but says she can’t afford the rent.

“Si, pero esta muy caro la renta,” she said in Spanish.

Nunez’s fruit stand is the kind of small business Bonilla doesn’t want the San Jose to ignore when it comes to rebuilding the economy.

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“This is a part of San Jose that has always had to kick and scratch for basic resources,” Bonilla said.

He is calling on San Jose officials to set up an East Side Recovery Fund of $20 million out of the $242 million coming to the city from the federal rescue plan this summer.

“All we’re saying is re-invest in us, and allow for our economy to finally break out of the cycle of low investment that we have and then wondering why things don’t get better on the economic front,” Bonilla said.

The federal funds will be divvied up by the city council this June to help with everything from rental assistance to
childcare including small business assistance.

“We support over 40,000 small businesses in the city and this will come as much needed relief,” said Chris Burton,
Deputy Director Economic Development.

Small businesses all over San Jose are hurting so there are no guarantees how the money will be spent. Bonilla hopes the East Side will get some much needed attention.

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“As we look at small business, we’re looking at it through an equity lens to understand who’s been most affected by the pandemic,” Burton said.