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By Miriam Raftery

April 24, 2020 (San Diego) -- The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $5 million loan program to help small businesses in the unincorporated area that have suffered losses because of COVID-19.

After more than a month of mandatory shut-downs, promised relief has not arrived for many businesses and individuals.  Pam Garcia owns a hair salon in the unincorporated area of El Cajon.  “None of my self-employed people have gotten unemployment. I filled for small business help and have received not even a letter,” she posted on Facebook. “ I also have not received my stimulus.”

Thomas Hootman and his wife each own a local small business. He voices similar concerns and frustrations. His Facebook post states, “All the other business owners I know have been squeezed out of aid. Hell, we haven’t even got the stimulus check! Our last day of operation for both my wife’s business and mine was before March 17th. So no income or assistance since then. And not for lack of trying.”

Federal funds approved by Congress for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans in the coronavirus relief package quickly ran out, with even some small businesses that reportedly applied on the first day receiving no funds. Some big banks reportedly gave preference to large companies over small businesses; some national chain franchisees received money while mom and pop proprietors did not.

Thus the burden has fallen largely on local governments to offer loans to keep local businesses afloat.

The county’s loan program will be overseen by the San Diego Foundation.  The loans are intended to allow these businesses to stay afloat and recover quickly once the state’s stay-at-home health order is lifted.

Unincorporated area businesses that employ fewer than 50 people may qualify for the no- or low-interest loans. Applicants could request up to $50,000 and pay no more than 2% interest for a term of up to two years. Businesses that can retain and create jobs will have priority.

The board action allows staff to set up an agreement with the San Diego Foundation to distribute the funds. The Foundation will ensure the loans are covered by the State of California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program or a comparable program.

Loans paid off within 60 months are returned to the County as well as 95% of any defaulted loans.

Applications for the loans could begin as soon as next month.


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