The South Bay won’t see significant economic recovery unless small business owners and residents hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown receive more emergency aid and large employers increase wages, according to a new report.
The report, by Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable — a consortium of leaders from tech, labor, education, government and small businesses — said if the pandemic recovery is to be inclusive, governments, nonprofits and companies need to target aid to the county’s most vulnerable residents, including people of color and undocumented immigrants.
“These issues are deeply complex and will require this cross-sector coalition to make a meaningful and lasting impact,” said Teresa Alvarado, chief impact officer at urban planning think tank SPUR.
The roundtable includes executives from businesses large and small, including Cisco Systems’ CEO Chuck Robbins, AMD CEO Lisa Su, Shaun Del Grande of Del Grande Dealer Group and Jo Lerma-Lopez of Luna Mexican Kitchen.
The group also includes heads of schools and nonprofits, including San Jose State University president Mary Papazian, Dr. Elizabeth Vilardo of Foundations Sutter Health, and Russell Hancock of Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who organized the roundtable in April, said he pulled these disparate leaders together to ensure the region’s new economy was inclusive and equitable. He and San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones formally accepted the report Aug. 26.
“In the weeks ahead, we will align our collective efforts to achieve this ambitious vision,” Liccardo said.
Members of the roundtable identified six priorities for government, companies, unions and other institutions to act upon, the first of which is providing financial assistance to help meet the most urgent needs of residents and businesses.
Toward this end, the report recommends expanding emergency financial assistance programs and pressuring the county’s large employers to increase wages. Santa Clara County’s largest employers include Cisco Systems, Christopher Ranch, Stanford School of Medicine, HP, Apple and Alphabet.
The next priority is encouraging job growth by supporting the recovery of small businesses and startups. According to the report, the unemployment rate in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties has nearly quadrupled over the past year, to 11% as of June from 2-3%.
People of color were disproportionately affected by the shutdown. According to the report, 11% of white workers in California lost their jobs between February and April compared to 19-20% of Black, Latinx and Asian workers.
The roundtable recommends governments pressure large employers to pause layoffs and furloughs and attempt retraining to slow the displacement of low-income workers.
Other priorities include producing and preserving low-income housing and providing residents and businesses with equipment and services to communicate over the web.
Despite the shutdown, the virus has taken a toll, disproportionately affecting minority residents. More than half of Santa Clara County’s infected population is Latinx, according to data from the county’s public health department, despite the fact Latinx people comprise only a quarter of the county’s population.
Latinx residents also had a disproportionate number of deaths in the county, comprising 32.6% of the county’s 233 virus deaths. Black residents had the most disproportionate number of deaths, comprising 3.9% of the county’s virus deaths despite being only 2.4% of the county’s population.
Small businesses in the area already were burdened with high costs prior to the pandemic, according to the report. The cost of doing business in Santa Clara County is 51% higher than the national average. To relieve pressure from businesses, the roundtable recommends governments streamline recommendations and speed up permit approvals and inspections to allow businesses to more quickly invest in new workers.
The recovery will require residents and leaders to rethink fundamental questions of how best to regulate businesses, according to Russell Hancock, CEO of regional economic think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
“It’s not enough to simply put the pieces back together again. We have to rebuild better,” Hancock said. “The crisis represents opportunity.”
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and San Jose City Council have extended their eviction moratoriums. The San Jose City Council will discuss anti-displacement strategies at its next meeting Sept. 1.
Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.