Small business is the number one employer in this country, and many San José residents rely on mom-and-pop establishments to provide a reliable source of income. During our city’s shelter-in-place (SIP), most discussions around relief efforts excluded our members. When small businesses are excluded, their employees are as well. Now is the time for city leaders to come together to preserve the substantial economic benefits of our diverse small business community.
On behalf of the 200+ small businesses we represent, The Alum Rock-Santa Clara Street Business Association’s leadership has a list of 4 recommendations we want our city leaders to take action on.
- Halting or deferring financial burdens placed on small businesses
For impacted small business owners, the need to pay utilities and licensing costs poses a significant threat to their ability to stay in operation. The city of New Orleans, LA, announced waiving fines, fees, interest, and penalties on sales tax payments. We call on our city leadership to wave and defer utility and licensing costs for small businesses that have experienced an impact from the COVID19 pandemic.
- Establishing a small business relief fund
The city of San José can take multiple approaches to provide direct financial relief for small businesses. San José should move fast by creating funds through a combination of city resources, philanthropic dollars or by redeploying state Community Development Block Grant funds to small businesses. In the City of Philadelphia, the city announced a $10 million COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund to provide grants to businesses. We call on the city to put a total of $10 million of general fund dollars to give relief to small businesses in highly affected communities.
- Establishing localized and community-specific business assistance programs
As our city considers providing support for businesses, we ask that they be strategic in allocating resources. There should not be only one community-based organization responsible for technical assistance to businesses throughout the city. We want to make sure that our city entrusts organizations that have existing relationships in our communities. The organizations should have a track record of working well with other service providers and have the capacity to provide culturally competent services. There should not be outside consultants obtaining funds to do work local community organizations are better equipped to provide.
- Investing in city-funded mediation between merchants and property owners
Due to limitations on operations, the SIP order has resulted in many small businesses falling behind on rent. California has issued a moratorium on evictions for small businesses; however, many small business owners remain confused about what is accurate. We ask city leaders to invest in mediators who can bring everyone to the table to discuss options that are beneficial for both tenants and property owners. We also ask that the city provide property owners incentives to encourage negotiating in good faith with our business owners. If the city fails to take action, we fear that mass displacement will occur, resulting in vacant properties popping up across the city.
We look to our leaders at the City of San José and ask they take action to address our community’s concerns. Now is the time for action, and we ask our city leaders to identify further steps they can take at the municipal level to keep our local economy from collapsing.
Authors: Peter Ortiz, Policy Advisor for the Alum Rock Santa Clara Street Business Association
Co-Authors: Connie Alvarez, President of the Alum Rock Santa Clara Street Business Association and Mimi Hernandez, Strategic Advisor for the Alum Rock Santa Clara Street Business Association