County votes to offer small business loans

Small businesses in the un­incorporated communities in San Diego County with less than 50 employees will be able to apply for loans of up to $50,000 each from the county. On April 21, the Board of Su­pervisors unanimously voted to launch a $5 million loan program to help restrain the small business losses related to the coronavirus epidemic.

The San Diego Founda­tion will oversee the program. District 5 Vice-Chairman Jim Desmond and District 2 Super­visor Dianne Jacob proposed the initiative. Borrowing busi­nesses will be charged no more than 2 percent interest with a five-year loan. Businesses that can retain and create jobs have priority.

San Diego Foundation Presi­dent/CEO Mark Stuart stated that with the loan program, the county made an early and vital commitment to the re­covery of small businesses and non-profits. “It’s going to take all agencies, organizations and sectors working together to de­velop regional assets like the loan program to rebuild our economy and get San Diegans back to work,” he said.

At Jacob’s East County Vir­tual Town Hall on Tuesday, she said reopening recreational spaces and businesses have to stay in line with the governor’s orders, and states have to stay within the federal guidelines.

She said she understands the anxiety and frustrations people are feeling right now, but East County is doing a good job at following the guide­lines and the numbers show that. But in terms of the local economy, she said it is facing two crises right now. The CO­VID-19 health crisis and that this health crises is “on the back of our businesses.”

“Our economy depends on it,” she said. “And what we are trying to do is handle both at the same time.”

Jacob said they are hoping to have the application process for businesses opened by the beginning of May so business­es can start applying for the loans, and by June to get the money to the businesses. Busi­nesses can now file a business interest form so the foundation can build a lead list and stay in contact with interested busi­nesses.

Jacob said she still had con­cerns on where the county stands right now with CO­VID-19 and that it is a social, emotional, healthcare and eco­nomic issue. She said a surge in Tuesday’s report of cases and deaths was not good news, but the trend is looking good.

She said testing 3,500 a day is not enough and more testing and tracing practices need to be in place.

Jacob said the important rea­son to stay within the guide­line of the health orders is to make sure the local health­care system is not overloaded. The county’s hospitals are at around 68 percent capacity now, and the county is working on expanding the capacity. She said she is concerned there might not be enough health­care workers, personal protec­tive equipment and ventilators.

Jacob said county revenue is down while expenditures are going up, and that is not a good trend line. Jacob said she is also concerned about the transmis­sion of COVID-19 across the border.

“We don’t ultimately know what we will need yet,” said Jacob. “We are preparing for a surge in the COVID… When you look at these trend num­bers, that’s not all that’s hap­pening. They are reported numbers. Multiply those num­ber by about 10 and that is probably a little more accurate of what we are dealing within this county.”

As far as opening up recre­ational spaces and businesses, the county and cities have to meet the governor’s require­ments. Testing, contact trac­ing and those exposed, the pre­vention of infection of people at risk, the ability of hospitals and health systems to handle surg­es, therapeutic research, the ability for businesses, schools and childcare facilities to sup­port physical distancing, and the ability of when to reinsti­tute measures such as “Stay at Home as Necessary.”

Jacob said she want to hear from businesses on what pro­tocols that they can make to ensure the safety of people and that these vary from business to business, but this is a necessary process for the local task force so that they can make recom­mendations to the county and the state before they can take action. She said the County is working on lifting some of the restrictions like other cities in the county that have already opened some recreational spaces and that it is working with the cities to open up the beaches.

East County Economic Devel­opment (ECD) Vice President/ COO James Sly and East County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) director said that the EDC and the SBDC work hand in hand with many projects. Sly said since March 16, his East County SBDC has met with more than 250 small business owners and entrepre­neurs and more than 520 coun­seling sessions.

“There are a lot of free re­sources for businesses at the East County SBDC,” he said. “We’ve seen restaurant owners that haven’t been able to stay open. We’ve seen them slowly transition to take out to at least to keep their income moderately stable. We’ve seen manufactur­ers who make aerospace parts, who are now producing hand sanitizing and personal protec­tive equipment. For many of our clients this is a very scary pe­riod as they look at their down­turn in income.”

Sly said it was their job to sift through all of the information on businesses, COVID-19 and make terms that are the easiest for businesses to receive help and access these resources. He said for all programs, from local to federal, the key for businesses to have their information ready and to apply as soon as possible. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Payroll Protec­tion Program worked so well, it ran out of money, said Sly. With the new relief package going through the Capital now, these programs should be funded again.

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