Small businesses lost millions over the course of the pandemic. One local lawmaker wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez requested Wednesday that $1 million in federal funds go to support businesses as they reopen. Peralez, whose district includes downtown San Jose, spoke alongside members of the Greater Downtown San José Economic Recovery Task Force, a group he championed in June.
“As our businesses continue to open and we begin to gather with friends and family once again, we are looking ahead,” Peralez said. “I’m optimistic that San Jose can come back better than before.”
If the allocation is approved, the funds, which come from the federal American Rescue Plan, will be used to create a COVID-19 Recovery Task Force modeled after Peralez’s idea of the economic task force. Peralez’s newly proposed COVID-19 task force hopes to use the money for outreach efforts to small businesses and possible grants.
The economic recovery task force was originally formed to ask city and county leaders to follow other counties by immediately reopening personal service businesses, such as hair and nail salons, gyms and tattoo parlors, create a marketing program, extend free parking and turn public areas into outdoor retail space.
As more residents get vaccinated and return to in-person shopping, business owners hope for another financial push to get revenue closer to pre-pandemic levels.
“A lot of the business owners I’ve talked to have had to apply for bankruptcy, which is really sad,” said Chris Patterson-Simmons, owner of Neu2u Thrift Boutique in downtown San Jose. He urged the council to consider Peralez’s proposal because it’s “the right thing to do.”
According to county numbers from earlier this year, about 2,600 eateries temporarily shuttered across Santa Clara County, while an additional 1,000 closed permanently. Though county efforts offered robust proposals for economic recovery, such as a local loan program, San Jose introduced smaller plans including a business license tax moratorium and grassroots advocacy efforts like Silicon Valley Strong, a consortium of resources and links to county, state and federal grant programs.
City leaders turned to temporary means to keep businesses open over the past year, including an “al fresco” outdoor dining program pushed by Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Dev Davis. The program is now permanent.
“It is so, so necessary not just for the business community… but all this benefits all of San Jose,” said Gumby Marques, owner of Heroes Martial Arts. Marques told San José Spotlight that his landlord understood his drop in revenue since the pandemic started. “This is just a small piece of the puzzle.”
The proposal needs to go through the City Council for approval, but no definitive timeframe is set.
The $1 million announcement came a day before Peralez officially launched his bid for mayor. He’s the first candidate to announce a 2022 mayoral run and cleared the field of labor-backed candidates. Peralez already has an advisory council and is soliciting support.
“The mental health impacts of this pandemic have been tremendous,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “We need to be able to ensure we’re focusing on these areas and the people and communities that have been most impacted.”