LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to create a public-private relief fund for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, though the size of the fund and details for distribution have yet to be worked out.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended combining county dollars with support from philanthropic organizations and financial institutions that serve small businesses in order to keep small owners afloat.
"Experience shows that the small business owner will likely sustain the highest level of economic injury during this health crisis, and will be the least likely to recover from sustained economic loss,'' Ridley-Thomas' motion read in part. "This represents a significant threat to the county's economic well-being, as more than 90% of businesses in the county employ fewer than 20 workers."
The federal coronavirus relief bill or CARES Act provides support for small business owners, but Ridley-Thomas said federal aid won't come quickly enough and probably won't help informal businesses like street vendors and home- based entrepreneurs. He also predicted that immigrant business owners would avoid seeking federal relief due to fears of deportation.
"The county must come to the aid of these businesses and entrepreneurs, or risk economic collapse in the communities they live in and serve," the motion stated.
As envisioned, the county's relief fund could be used for bridge funding for businesses likely to receive federal disaster assistance; low-cost working capital loans to businesses that may not qualify for federal dollars; and cash grants to micro-entrepreneurs with less than nine employees and other highly vulnerable businesses.
The board, which approved the motion without comment, did not set a target for the size of the fund but directed the county CEO and Los Angeles County Development Authority to report back to the board by April 24
The LACDA is already offering low-interest loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses that have 25 or fewer employees and have been affected by the pandemic.
The county also established a $500,000 fund through the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Service to make $10,000 grants available to struggling small businesses. Priority is given to businesses in unincorporated areas of the county, and about 25% of awards have been reserved for social enterprises serving vulnerable populations.