San Diego County expands small business loan program to include businesses in cities - Encinitas Advocate

San Diego County expands small business loan program to include businesses in cities - Encinitas Advocate

San Diego County expands small business loan program to include businesses in cities - Encinitas Advocate

Posted: 30 Sep 2020 07:21 AM PDT

San Diego County supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday, Sept. 29, to expand the county's $5 million small business loan COVID relief program regionwide to small businesses operating in cities.

Supervisors in late April established the loan program initially to help businesses in the unincorporated areas that are experiencing hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program had $5 million to allocate but nearly $1 million has been loaned so far.

At the time, only businesses in the unincorporated areas with fewer than 50 employees could qualify for loans, which can be as large as $50,000 with up to 2 percent interest. The loans have to be paid back within two years.

However with Tuesday's action, all qualifying small businesses in San Diego County — including those operating in cities — can now apply for the loans.

Thus far the program has provided 27 businesses with loans totaling $827,000, and another four businesses are closing on loans totaling $125,000, according to county documents.

County supervisors said Tuesday that $4 million currently unallocated will provide significant relief to many more businesses.

"It only makes sense to open it up to additional businesses in the region," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who co-authored the proposal with Supervisor Jim Desmond. "Businesses are still suffering and could use another lifeline to get them through this pandemic."

Businesses operating in the unincorporated areas will still receive priority.

Expanding the small business loan program is one of several steps supervisors have taken in recent months to aid small businesses during the pandemic.

Earlier this summer county supervisors established a stimulus grant program using some of the remaining CARES Act funds from the federal stimulus package. That program gives each of the county's five supervisors $3.4 million to distribute in grants, as well as $700,000 each to focus on restaurants.

So far more than $14.5 million in grants have been distributed, assisting thousands of businesses.

In early August the board also unanimously adopted a proposal to streamline the application process and waive permit fees, so houses of worship and gyms that can't operate indoors under public health restrictions can reserve space in county parks.

Many cities throughout the region also have stepped up with loan and grant programs targeting small businesses.

At the end of March, the City of San Diego approved a $6.1 million relief package that included grants and loans — from $10,000 to $20,000 — for city businesses with `100 workers or fewer, while the City of San Marcos set aside $3 million for a business sustainability loan program.

In April the City of Poway created a $2 million business loan program for businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees, and the City of Coronado opted to draw $2 million out of its reserves to support a "Lifeline Business Loan program."

—Charles T. Clark is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

Small Business Specialists, Partnership for New York City announce small business collaboration - Crain's New York Business

Posted: 30 Sep 2020 02:30 AM PDT

New York City has partnered with one of its most powerful business groups to provide resources to minority, women-and immigrant-owned businesses.

The initiative, dubbed the NYC Small Business Resource Network, is a product of collaboration between the Partnership for New York City and the city's Department of Small Business Services, as well as the philanthropic organization The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and chambers of commerce from the five boroughs. 

The program will try to increase access to support and programs for small businesses in part through a team of 22 specialists who will be posted at chambers of commerce, according to public-private partnership.

"These resources, coupled with hands-on support from Small Business Specialists, will help tackle barriers to economic recovery and expand opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses across the five boroughs," said Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the Partnership Fund, of the Partnership for New York City.

The collaboration comes just weeks after the Partnership for New York City publicly called out Mayor Bill de Blasio for not doing enough to address small businesses' top reopening concerns. Now the Partnership is working with the mayor's administration, albeit on the concerns of small rather than large business. Widely seen as harder hit than their larger peers, small businesses accounted for 39% of job losses according to an August report from city Comptroller Scott Stringer. 

"The small business community has been shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic and this is our latest commitment to ensure that small businesses get the resources they need by connecting them to services to help them to reopen and recover," said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. 

Funding for the specialists will come from a $2.8 million grant from the Peterson Foundation.

"By sustaining and supporting these entrepreneurs, we can help accelerate the renewal of our economy and help build a better and more inclusive future for New York City," said Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation.

More advisory services on technology, real estate, legal and accounting will come online in the next few weeks, according to the partnership, which said the resource network will also work to connect small businesses with contracting, loan and grant opportunities. 

Orlando Secret Service creates new email for small business owners - WKMG News 6 & ClickOrlando

Posted: 29 Sep 2020 03:24 PM PDT

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Secret Service has created an email address for business owners who feel their companies may have been used in cybercrime to fleece the Small Business Administration.

Special Agent in charge Caroline O'Brien-Buster told News 6 she decided to establish the new email after investigations uncovered millions of dollars in assets obtained by thieves using Florida companies as fronts to steal grants from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The email was established this week as a direct connection to the Secret Service for Small Business owners who believe their companies have been "misrepresented" by thieves.

"We do everything we can to hold these people accountable," Obrien-Buster told News 6.

News 6 first reported that the Orlando U.S. Secret Service had already recovered more than $2 million in stolen assets earlier this month.

The assets were found in Central Florida bank accounts meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 economic collapse.

The Secret Service told News 6 it is currently investigating SBA fraud cases in six counties including Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Polk, and Volusia counties.

O'Brien-Buster said the local secret service has already investigated 100 cases that led to $2 million in local financial institutions.

"Those folks don't know they are a victim of fraud until we come out knocking on their door explaining what happened," she said.

The SBA set aside more than $700 billion authorized through the Cares Act to help companies cover staff payroll and operating expenses during the limited business operations forced by Covid-19.

Special Agent Roy Dotson Jr. told News 6 the potential loss could reach $21 billion.

"If you use SBA's lower estimate of annual fraud of 3%, you get a sense of what the potential losses could be, he said, "I will say the Service, along with our federal partners, are aggressively investigating these cases at this time."

A local bank investigator who asked to remain anonymous confirmed financial institutions is working with the secret service and local law enforcement agencies to intercept the stolen funds.

"Financial institutions are researching these deposits," the source said, "To identify proper ownership of the funds and minimize the fraud."

Secret Service officials said if you run your credit through Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion this will tell you if someone has taken a loan out in your name. Officials said businesses can check Sunbiz to see if someone took a loan out in your name.

If you feel your business has been compromised you can email the secret service at

If you have an unemployment benefits issue email News 6 at

Amazon small business gift guide for Amazon Prime Day 2020 - TODAY

Posted: 30 Sep 2020 05:15 AM PDT

Shop TODAY was paid by Amazon to write this article. However, Shop TODAY editors worked independently to select both the topic and the products featured, without input from Amazon. If you buy something through these links, Shop TODAY earns a commission on your purchases from our sponsor's site.

With medical experts warning against crowded retail shops amid the global pandemic, people may be tempted to shop online. But, what if you want to support a small business that doesn't have an e-commerce store?

With more and more small businesses opening online storefronts, it's fairly easy to "shop small" from your own living room. Many of them actually turned to Amazon to continue selling merchandise.

The retailer hosts plenty of small business storefronts in one convenient landing page. Plus, Amazon is incentivizing Prime members to shop small during the next couple of weeks. Any Prime member who buys from select small businesses between Sept. 28 and Oct.12, will get $10 off their entire Amazon Prime Day purchases on Oct. 13 and 14.

So, if you want to support small businesses while shopping from the comfort of home, check out three brands that caught our eye on Amazon.

'Tis the season for fall candles and warm cups of tea. Sweet Water Decor offers sleek, 100% soy candles in scents like pumpkin spice and autumn leaves. And, if you're looking for a new mug to serve a nice warm tea, check out their line of galvanized steel mugs with cute sayings. We like the Pumpkin Spice mug because it truly channels fall vibes.

Run out of your favorite skincare essentials? Or just looking to treat yourself? Houston-based shop Minimo bases its skincare line on using natural ingredients to fight hyperpigmentation. The name "Minimo," is a take on the "minimalist" approach to skin care, according to the brand's website. From vitamin C serums to charcoal facial scrubs, Minimo offers plenty of options to outfit your own at-home spa.

There's nothing quite like a nice cup of coffee in the morning to warm you up on a fall or winter day — family-owned Door County Coffee & Tea offers plenty of options. From autumn spice coffee to a classic, breakfast roast, all of their coffees are roasted in small batches right in Door County, Wisconsin. They also offer K-cups for those using single-serve coffee machines at home. The pumpkin spice K-cups will make any home smell like fall mornings.

For more stories like this, check out:

To discover more deals, shopping tips and budget-friendly product recommendations, download the new TODAY app and subscribe to our Stuff We Love newsletter!

Reopening the economy can’t save small business if consumers won’t return -

Posted: 30 Sep 2020 04:00 AM PDT

Navy Pier is one of Chicago's main attractions. Home to more than 70 businesses, the complex on the shore of Lake Michigan is normally filled with crowds on a summer day.

"Navy Pier is rocking, there's people everywhere, there's excitement, there's fireworks, it's a good time at Navy Pier," said Stephanie Hart, the owner of Brown Sugar Bakery, which has two locations, one on the South Side of Chicago and the other at Navy Pier. This year, she says, "it just wasn't the same."

The pier shut down when the pandemic hit in March, and then reopened in June. According to Payal Patel, its communications director, attendance was just 15 percent this summer from the one before. It shuttered again after Labor Day and now plans to reopen in 2021.

"It was heartbreaking, not just about my business, but to see Navy Pier in that kind of condition," Hart said.

During the pandemic, much of the conversation around small businesses has focused on lockdowns and reopening — just let things open back up again, the line of thinking goes, and everything will be okay. But the reality of the situation is that for many businesses, that's just not the case. According to Yelp, more than 160,000 US businesses on its platform have closed since March 1, nearly 100,000 of them permanently. Data from Homebase, a team management software company, shows that the number of hours worked at small businesses is still about 20 percent below January.

"People are not comfortable going to public places yet. We've tried to put so many safety measures in place, but all of that, essentially, is not going to matter if people will not come," Patel said.

You can't force business as usual when life is not. Many businesses already operating with low margins pre-pandemic can't survive under health-related restrictions that, while incredibly important, make staying afloat extremely difficult.

Beyond the restrictions, there are also broader issues afoot. With a deadly virus still spreading, many Americans simply aren't falling over themselves to go out and consume. Millions of people have lost their jobs or are afraid they might, so they're not as eager to spend their money on things they don't perceive as necessary.

That leaves small businesses fighting for their lives.

Eric Huebner, who owns a gift shop called Best Gift Idea Ever Chicago at Navy Pier, has pulled out every stop he can think of to keep his business running. He set up a GoFundMe page to try to raise money, applied for a Paycheck Protection Act loan, and once he began collecting unemployment benefits, he put some of that money toward his business. He started selling his products via Facebook, too.

When the pier reopened, at first his sales were decent; he estimates he took in 60 to 70 percent of normal revenue. But then at the end of July, business fell off a cliff. "A $900 day could go to a $90 day," he said.

Policies designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses are insufficient, in no small part because of this promise of reopening that fails to comprehend the depth and length of the crisis many of them are facing. Reopening the economy can't save small business, and the false hope that it can is part of what is killing it.

"Customer is king in the United States, so what they want, they will get, but they don't want anything right now," said Claudia Sahm, the director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and former Federal Reserve economist. "They can't afford it, or they don't want to go get it, or something's holding them back."

Consumers are spending less and spending differently

Even before pandemic-related lockdowns took hold nationwide, consumers began to change their behavior. They started steering clear of restaurants and staying off of airplanes. Then, the lockdowns resulted in a huge decline in traffic across industries — restaurants and bars, travel and hospitality, fitness and beauty — and subsequent layoffs. During the spring, you heard some economists and experts talking about a V-shaped recovery, the idea that just as quickly as the economy had contracted, it would also be able to recover. But the thing is, you can't turn the economy back on like a light switch, especially when the virus isn't under control.

Some people, including small-business owners, experts, and government leaders, are "focused too much on the lockdowns by themselves and not the actual risk of the virus, which is a major disruption to business," said Adam Ozimek, an economist at the freelance platform Upwork and formerly of Moody's Analytics.

Ozimek has experienced the problem firsthand: He is one of the owners of Decades, a sort of upscale entertainment complex with a bowling alley, arcade, restaurant, and bar, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After shutting down in March, Decades is now doing outdoor dining and takeout. It has some indoor activity within health guidelines, too. Still, the business is seeing weak demand. It's at just 28 percent of revenue from last year.

Decades got a PPP loan, which is a forgivable loan if the business spends it to keep workers on the payroll for a certain amount of time, and a grant from the state. It's still in the red. "We ran out of cash in September, and now we're putting money into the business," Ozimek said.

According to data from OpenTable, which tracks restaurant reservations and traffic, seated dining in the US is still down more than 50 percent year-over-year. A survey the company did of in the US and Canada found a quarter of respondents say they dine out once a week, but it's still not "anywhere near as often as they did before — and it's going to be a long time before they do," said OpenTable CEO Debby Soo in an email. She also warned that things are about to get worse, not better: "The colder months will present new challenges for restaurants, especially considering the majority of diners view outdoor dining as safer."

OpenTable has forecast one in four restaurants could permanently close due to Covid-19, though it notes that in countries such as Japan and Germany, which have done a better job of controlling the pandemic, the industry has rebounded.

Yelp found that while consumer interest (defined as US reviews, photos, and page views) has increased since the pandemic first set in in late March, compared this time last year, it's still down about 33 percent. The same goes for gyms.

Erin Suggs, a hairstylist in California, recently told me that when her salon reopened for a while in the spring, business was much slower than it was in normal times — despite seeing the protests with people declaring they wanted a haircut on TV. "I was having cancellations all over the place," she said.

The way consumers are and aren't spending their money is not necessarily a linear story. Some of what's changed is what people are spending on. Instead of going to the restaurant, they're going to the grocery store. Instead of buying a dress at the local boutique, they're ordering sweatpants on Amazon. Spending so much time at home has made people more interested in home-improvement projects, meaning trips to Home Depot.

While there was a steep decline in personal consumption expenditures in March and April, it rebounded in subsequent months. One issue still bearing out in the data is the effect of the additional $600 in unemployment insurance benefits to people who lost their jobs, which was in place during much of the spring and summer but came to an end on July 31. US consumer spending started to slow down in August, and as Reuters notes, spending on services is still 10 percent below where it was in before Covid-19 hit.

"This is a big deal," Sahm said. "If services don't come back, we're really screwed, because that's a big part of GDP."

The Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker out of Harvard shows that total consumer spending across the US is still down by 7 percent compared to January, but that varies significantly across sectors. Restaurants and hotels are down more than 25 percent, transportation nearly 50 percent, entertainment and recreation 60 percent.

Businesses are experiencing the pandemic differently

Ruben Alonso III, the president of AltCap, a community development financial institution based in Kansas City that has supported numerous small businesses throughout the pandemic, told me the effects of the pandemic "was all over the board" locally. "You saw some businesses struggling and closing even and others flourishing."

Not all small businesses are alike, even in the same industry, and whether or not they're able to survive depends on a lot of factors — where they are, what they do, whether they're able to pivot, how much debt and risk their owners are and are not willing to take on. Some of their fate is in their own hands, but not all of it.

Before the pandemic, Kiffany Bosserman's company, Cottontale, largely entailed selling all-natural cotton candy at events. Once Covid-19 kicked in and events were shut down, she "pivoted hard," investing in a dessert tricycle to pop up at local restaurants and coffee houses. Now, she's in the process of setting up a storefront.

She's gotten a loan from AltCap with a zero percent interest rate for the first year and thinks that will be enough to keep going, but it's not easy. The corporate events that were the business' bread and butter aren't coming back fast, and while smaller events are happening, people prefer pre-packaged desserts to the live service. "We hustled and figured it out," said Bosserman, who runs the business with her husband. "We're not going out to eat all the time, but we made the sacrifices."

Around reopening, some businesses saw a pretty immediate recovery thanks to pent-up demand, but eventually, that diminished and things evened out. "People are still coming in, even though they're still working at 50 percent capacity, but that demand is not quite the level it was pre-Covid," said Megan Crook, advancement and external affairs officer at AltCap.

Sunny Burden, who works at a pizza restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, told me that business "plummeted" around the time they started indoor dining. "It's kind of just now in the past month, not even, starting to kind of pick back up, there are tourists coming through," she said.

For some businesses, there are workarounds for the situation — they can have few workers, reduce inventory, and find ways to run more efficiently. But that doesn't solve the problem for, say, a gym that has invested in machinery and still has to pay rent, or a restaurant that even running at its leanest still can't get customers in the door.

Trophy Bar in Brooklyn seemed as well poised as any small business to survive the pandemic — business was good pre-pandemic, it got a PPP loan for the holdover, and once restaurants and bars in New York were allowed to reopen with outdoor seating, it had a sizable yard to put back to use.

But following legal guidelines upon reopening meant Trophy could accommodate just eight tables safely and had to close by 11 pm. About half of its staff didn't want to come back, either because they'd moved away or were afraid for their safety. Many New Yorkers have left the city or are hesitant to get out and about again, too. "Every time it rained in our backyard, there went our business," said Mandy Misagal, who started Trophy in 2007 along with two business partners.

Ultimately, Trophy couldn't cut it. It closed its doors on August 30. "Every turn we took, it was like, what if we end up in way more debt? That's the scary thing about it," Misagal said. "The choice is pulling the plug completely on your business or being in debt by the end of it."

The economy is a network of causes and effects, and nothing happens in isolation. Jed Kolko, chief economist at the jobs website Indeed, pointed to the effects work-from-home trends have on businesses. Overall, nationally, Indeed's jobs postings are about 19 percent below where they were last year (at the worst, they were down by 40 percent), but metro areas are the ones that have seen the biggest declines — places like New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. "In those places, retail and other local services are especially suffering," he said. "If people are working at home, they are not going out and spending the way that they used to."

Adair Morse, an associate professor of finance at the Berkeley Hass School of Business, said that policymakers' failure to understand small business as a heterogeneous group led to failures on how they set up to help them. For example, her research looking at Oakland, California, found that PPP loans were effective in keeping microbusinesses with just a handful of employees afloat, but for businesses with more workers, that was less often the case. Many minority-owned businesses were shut out of the loans or struggled to get them as well. "We really need to think about the size of small businesses and how it can support the different classes," Morse said.

This is a long-term problem — but not a permanent one

The belief that reopening would be a panacea for small business was wrong. That belief is also part of what is making it so hard for them to make it through. Policies to support small businesses were designed for short-term dips, not the long, deep economic slog we're in for.

"We just didn't understand that it wasn't about just getting through it and then figuring out how small businesses would recover from that couple-month shock, it's this lingering shock that their revenues are nowhere near what they used to be," Morse said.

Morse, who helped structure California's small business rebuilding fund, said she believes the best course of action would be to focus on supporting small businesses that are showing a capacity to recover, ones that are not necessarily doing spectacularly, but ones that aren't doing half-bad. "When you keep some places from falling, you're able to have spillovers to have other ones survive," she said.

Ozimek warned that focusing too hard on businesses doing okay during the current moment risks leaving behind businesses that were just fine ahead of the pandemic and will be fine once again once the virus is under control. He and John Lettieri from the think tank Economic Innovation Group crafted a business relief proposal later included in a legislative package put forth by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Susan Collins.

"We need to help business make it through this temporary adjustment to get back to normal in the future," he said. "Grocery stores are not always going to be this busy. Home Depot is not always going to be this busy."

There are multiple policy-related solutions that could help small businesses in a more sustained way — grants, a bailout, or low- or zero-interest, long-term loans that they'll have a lot of time to pay back.

"The best, as an economist, that I can think of doing is coming up with a product that is an incredibly affordable interest rate," Morse said.

Small businesses are a vital part of the American economy. But we can't expect consumers to save them — many people are afraid of getting sick and of losing their jobs, and they're just not living their lives as they normally would. I love sitting in dive bars playing cards with friends, but if you open my favorite bar up tomorrow while Covid-19 is still out there, I'm not going.

Part of Navy Pier's calculation in shutting down entirely is that it hopes that will help it and the businesses it houses survive by limiting operational expenses. That still leaves everyone figuring out what to do in the meantime.

Huebner has an invitation to put up a pop-up store at Chelsea Market in New York for a few months this fall. Navy Pier has laid off more than half of its staff, and many of those who are still working are on partial furlough. Hart is throwing her energy into her main bakery location on Chicago's South Side, making adjustments to the space to make it safer, narrowing her menu, and building a website to beef up online sales and pickups. "There's a ton of people who just don't want to come in, so it's not just about what we offer, it's about what people prefer," she said.

She is also working with other restaurateurs and businesses in the area to make it more of a collective attraction for visitors. They built a boardwalk and are putting together events. The message: "Eat, play, socialize, relax, wear a mask."

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