Breed announces $62M small business relief program

Mayor London Breed promised last week that more relief was coming for small businesses. On Tuesday she announced a $62...

Mayor London Breed promised last week that more relief was coming for small businesses. On Tuesday she announced a $62 million package of loans and grants to help them stay afloat during the pandemic.

Breed said her proposal adds to the $29 million in financial relief The City already has provided to small businesses since the pandemic began last March, including a $5 million fee waiver approved by the Board of Supervisors last week.

“We have lost too many of our small businesses already during this pandemic, and this relief plan will help many businesses get through these next challenging months as the vaccine is distributed and we can begin our recovery,” Breed said in a statement.

There are two main components to Breed’s newly announced small business relief program. The proposal is funded from cuts to city departments and will require approval by the Board of Supervisor as a budget supplemental. Six supervisors already have signaled they support it including Board President Shamann Walton, who called it “the lifeline that we need to help a lot of our businesses survive.”

Breed announced $12.4 million for “relief grants” for qualifying small businesses to receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. The amount is based on the number of employees the business had as of February 2020.

“Our goal is for these grants to come quickly, starting in February to provide immediate relief for our small businesses who so badly need it,” Breed said during a virtual press conference.

In dispersing the grants, The City plans to target businesses in high needs neighborhoods and businesses owned by women and people of color, Breed said.

The other component is a $50 million low-interest or zero-interest loan program Breed said she is funding by taking funds from city departments.

“I asked my budget staff to go to departments and find any ways to cut costs to reprioritize funding to support our small businesses, and the good news is we found some,” Breed said.

Breed will introduce the legislation authorizing the use of the funds “as soon as possible,” according to the Mayor’s Office. Specific details on the funding was not available Tuesday, beyond that it would come from “departmental expenditure savings.”

The City would provide up to $250,000 in loans per business.

“Part of this plan will focus on supporting what we call our anchor community businesses. These are small businesses with slightly higher revenues that are often left out of our small business relief plans,” Breed said. “This includes many of our restaurants, which of course are such an important part of what makes our city special, but they also employ more people than many other small businesses.”

“This isn’t just about saving our small businesses, but it’s also about keeping people working,” she added.

Laurie Thomas, executive director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, an advocacy group for restaurants, had called on The City to do more to help the restaurant industry after the fee waiver approved last week applied only to restaurants that had less than $750,000 in gross receipts in 2019.

These loans are available to businesses that would usually make more than $2.5 million annually in revenue, including many restaurants. Restaurants are currently prohibited from providing indoor or outdoor dining but can provide take out or delivery as The City remains under a state stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Expanding access to allow more mid-sized restaurants to apply will support this heavily-impacted industry,” Thomas said in a statement.

Sharky Laguana, president of the Small Business Commission, said last week The City needed to do more and praised the announcement.

“This is the biggest relief plan The City has pursued for small business since the pandemic started, and will save thousands of desperately needed jobs and businesses throughout The City,” Laguana said in a statement.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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