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League of California Cities

San Francisco Fund for Black-Owned Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 Grows to $3.2 Million

San-Francisco-Grant-Funds-for-Black-Owned-Small-Business-group.jpgSan Francisco has doubled down on its commitment to support Black-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19. The city just announced that its African American Small Business Revolving Loan Fund has grown to $3.2 million and will help at least 70 Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs access much-needed financial capital, with zero-interest loans of up to $50,000.

“Black-owned businesses were already struggling to survive in San Francisco and COVID-19 has just made it even harder. It’s critical that we find ways to support our community and help businesses make it through,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “We know there are a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses in need—with people struggling to pay rent on their storefronts, support their employees, or have income to afford other basic necessities. Given the lack of continued federal support, San Francisco is stepping up to meet the moment and fill that need with an additional $1.7 million for the African American Small Business Revolving Loan Fund.”

In June, Mayor Breed announced an initial investment of $1.5 million from Give2SF donations to support Black-owned businesses. The city’s philanthropic fund, Give2SF, was established to support housing stabilization, food security, and financial security for workers and small businesses impacted by coronavirus. With an additional investment of $500,000 from Give2SF, the city’s lending partner, Main Street Launch, was able to borrow $1.2 million in lending capital for the program.

Nearly 400 businesses applied for funding during the two-week application period, demonstrating the significant need for financial assistance among San Francisco’s Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.

On Aug. 21, Mayor Breed announced that 40 small businesses were recently selected to start the full application process. Small businesses not invited to move forward in this round will be automatically considered in the next funding round. The $1.7 million expansion in funding will provide for at least an additional 30 loans to small businesses.

“Black-owned businesses anchor our diverse communities, creating places of work that foster creativity, opportunity, community, and culture for all San Franciscans,” said San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development Director Joaquín Torres. “We’ve seen too many of these businesses hit hard by COVID-19, compounding the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on our African-American communities. As a city, we're committed to providing the access to capital and resources necessary to best serve our vital and historically underserved communities and ensuring the ongoing economic and cultural vibrancy of San Francisco.”

The loans are prioritized for long-standing San Francisco African American businesses, especially those businesses most impacted by COVID-19 including those that have not been able to operate since the Stay-Safer-at-Home Order was issued in March. A portion of the funds are set aside for small businesses that have not be able to reopen under health orders, including hair salons, barber shops and other personal services, gyms and personal fitness, and bars and night life. Funds can be used to pay for rent, payroll, equipment and machinery, inventory, furniture and fixtures, tenant improvements, and COVID-19 related expenses including marketing and improving online presence and reopening costs.

“What surprised us with the initial response from nearly 400 businesses was the magnitude approaching $16 million and the unfortunate possibility that these businesses could also close for good,” says African American Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Matthew Ajiake. “This is why we are grateful to the mayor, her staff, and Main Street Launch for identifying an additional $1.7 million to bring our direct loan and grant facility to $3.2 million.”

This story was featured in the CA Cities Advocate Newsletter on Sept. 2, 2020.
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