A relief fund for businesses impacted by COVID-19 opened its wallet today, offering grants to mom-and-pop shops in East San Jose.
It is designed for people like Thu Pham, owner of A-Plus Cleaners, who had to close her storefront for a month after contracting COVID-19 before reopening. Many of her friends who are small business owners have had to close their doors too, she said.
“We’ve lost so much clients,” Pham said.
Pham’s shop is a microcosm of small businesses in East San Jose, a region of Santa Clara County that has been hit hardest by the pandemic.
San Jose Planning Commission Vice Chair Rolando Bonilla created the fund last month and encouraged donations. That led to a partnership, announced today, with Business Circle LatinX, a collective of business leaders that assists immigrant business owners in Santa Clara County.
The fund offers $3,500 to $5,000 in grants to businesses with five employees or fewer, as well as to nonprofits.
According to Bonilla, the fund currently has $30,000, which includes $5,000 that Bonilla donated through his company, Voler Strategic Advisors. The remainder came from community members, Bonilla said, adding he hopes to eventually raise $300,000.
“We know businesses in East San Jose have been suffering for a year now with no financial support to help them,” he said.
Bonilla, who nearly lost his life to COVID-19, said it was critical for him to create the fund to help businesses in his district, and wanted to set an example by contributing his own money.
“They’re doing everything they can to stay open,” he added.
East San Jose, which has a large Latino population, has seen a disproportionate amount of Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 cases.
Mimi Hernandez, director of Prosperity Lab, part of the Business Circle LatinX collective, said she is hoping the fund will give needed money to businesses that have suffered through the pandemic yet have been left out of most government aid programs.
“Even though they’re contributing to the economy and paying taxes and revenue, some of them for decades, they’re seeing little returns in the infrastructure working for them,” Hernandez said.
Hoping to fix some of the inequity, Bonilla issued a challenge for community leaders and big businesses across the county.
“Imagine what can happen if the bigger players in the region — from the mayor to the City Council, to the Board of Supervisors, to big-tech corporations — imagine if they got together and made an investment in this fund and this specific community,” Bonilla said. “If East San Jose is missing from the tax generation conversation for this city, the city as a whole will also lose access to critical services.”
To apply or learn more about the grants, click here.