Surviving the pandemic: How can South Bay small businesses get help?
Tony and Alba's co-owners Al and Diana Salciccia-Vallorz helped shred cheese for their restaurant's pizzas and other menu items. A new proposal would help restaurants and other small businesses reopen when shelter-in-place restrictions ease by offering services outside. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Businesses are struggling as the statewide and regional stay-home orders drag into the seventh week, and while there are many resources available, those programs are ever-changing and sometimes difficult to untangle.

Health officials and elected leaders have also demurred on providing a timeline to reopen the economy. Though many retailers will be allowed to reopen for curbside pickup as early as Friday, not all regions will behave the same, and those shops in the Bay Area will remain shuttered for now.

Meanwhile, cities, counties, the state and federal governments, alongside other major funders, have unveiled a slew of resources for those companies struggling to stay afloat during the shutdown.

Federal resources

Loans

When the federal Payroll Protection Program ran out of funds less than two weeks after launching, many small businesses faced whiplash, hopeful for some relief, only for the opportunity to be snatched away. But the funds have been replenished with more clarity around who should apply. The pool of money, re-upped on April 27, isn’t expected to last indefinitely, so businesses that qualify should apply as soon as possible.

Agricultural businesses can apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance program that can offer up to $10,000.

Small Business Administration Express Bridge Loans are for companies that already have a relationship with an SBA Express Lender and can provide up to $25,000.

Debt relief and credits

The SBA will also pay up to six months of principal, interest and the fees on certain micro-loans for small businesses through a new debt relief program funded by the federal CARES Act.

Employers who keep workers on the job despite coronavirus impacts may qualify for an Employee Retention Credit.

Delayed taxes

Employers, including those who are self-employed, can defer paying the employer’s share of Social Security taxes between March 27 and Dec. 31. That money would be paid back over the next two years.

In addition, many business tax payment deadlines have been moved to July 15.

California resources

Unemployment programs

Employers looking to avoid laying employees off entirely can participate in the Unemployment Insurance Work Sharing Program to have the state help offset some of the lost hours while retaining those workers.

Despite that program, a record number of Californians have applied for unemployment across the these state. But business owners, self-employed, independent and gig workers aren’t typically eligible for unemployment funds — until now. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, funded through the federal CARES Act but administered through the state, allows those workers to apply for unemployment benefits by clicking here.

Insurance and tax payment extensions

Covered California has offered a “grace period” for small businesses that can’t make payments on their employees’ health care plans. Call 1-844-332-8384 Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for more information.

Employers that have had finances upended due to COVID-19 can request a 60 extension to file state payroll reports without the normal penalties and interest. Call the EDD’s helpline for more information: 1-888-745-3886

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to waive penalties on late residential and small business property tax payments for those impacted by coronavirus. Typically, late payments after April 10 come with a 10 percent penalty. Santa Clara County leaders have been advocating for such a move in recent months.

Webinars and other resources

The state has also launched a website filled with free webinars and other resources for small businesses and employees during the coronavirus shutdown.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County supervisors approved an ordinance that protects small businesses from being evicted due to COVID-19. The protections are in place between March 24 and May 31, but could be extended. Find more information about the ordinance here.

San Jose resources

Avoiding layoffs

For those planning to close due to the coronavirus, San Jose and Work2Future’s Rapid Response teams can meet with business owners to try to prevent layoffs or offer services to workers who are set to be out of work. The organization also offers other resources for small businesses on its website.

Mentoring

Business Owner Space is another resource for employers in the city. The organization is made up of about 30 groups, including local chambers of commerce, business associations, banks and credit unions, as well as cities. Each offer programs for small businesses during COVID-19, including assistance with leasing concerns, low-cost mentoring, classes, marketing and access to capital.

San Jose officials have released a series of webinars with experts to help businesses tackle various aspects of the COVID-19 shutdown. The topics to date include:

Deferring taxes

San Jose has deferred fees on some late business taxes.

Questions

San Jose officials also launched a new email address where business owners can email questions and concerns related to the coronavirus and its related shelter-in-place order in the region. That email address is: covid19sjbusiness@sanjoseca.gov.

Santa Clara resources

Utilities

Santa Clara officials have placed a moratorium on utility disconnections — both water and electricity — for both residential and commercial customers until further notice. Residents and businesses will also be able to create a flexible payment plan if they’ve been impacted by COVID-19.

Grants

Councilmembers this month allocated additional funding for the city’s Small Business Assistance Grant Program, which is available to Santa Clara companies and nonprofits with between one and 25 employees. The program, launched last month with $500,000 in funds, received hundreds of applications within minutes of launching.

Now the program has grown to $800,000 and to date, about 600 organizations have applied. As of April 29, more than half of the funds had been allocated, but officials hope more money will come from private donations. Grant applications should be submitted by email to smallbusiness@santaclaraca.gov.

Other resources

Facebook has launched a $100 million fund for certain small business owners affected by COVID-19. Of that, $15 million will be dedicated in the Bay Area and half of the funds will go to women-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses.

Other organizations, including Salesforce, Verizon, JP Morgan Chase, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Opportunity Fund have also set up funds for small businesses.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: In a new series focused on bringing you “news you can use” during the crisis, we provide tips and explanatory stories to help you survive the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you want to know? Let us know: info@sanjosespotlight.com.

Catch up on our other stories:

How to apply for unemployment benefits in California

Make your own CDC-approved mask (plus how to store it)

Can’t pay rent? Here’s what you should do

How to get into a homeless shelter in Silicon Valley

Resources for seniors in the South Bay

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