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Supporting Our Neighbors: Small Business Relief Grants Help Business Owners Through Tough Times

In 2019, there were 4 million small businesses in California, and 7.1 million Californians were employed by a small business. In our own Los Angeles County, 29% of Angelenos report small business income, and the most recent data from 2015 shows that over half of these businesses are minority owned. With so many employees or owners of these businesses in Los Angeles, these are our neighbors, family, and friends.

As many Angelenos rely on small businesses, there is no question that the current pandemic and lockdown has affected many of us while responding to current health and safety risks. Owners have adapted their businesses: restaurants have become take-out and delivery only, retail stores have become online shops, and some service providers have shut their doors entirely. As a result, employees too have faced job losses or temporary curtailment. Many of those close to us have been affected.

“At the end of that day what we are really talking about is not organizations, we are talking about our neighbors. Now is the time to really find it within ourselves to be supportive”
— Maurice Jones, President and CEO Local Initiatives Support Corporation

To help our neighbors in need, LISC LA and our partners are stepping up to provide resources and support. In the past months, our office has provided 42 small businesses with government-funded PPP loans, shared our partners’ efforts in guiding owners on business adaptation, and most recently partnered with funders like Verizon and Sam’s Club to provide small businesses the necessary funds to fill the gaps.

The LISC Small Business Relief Grants are providing urgently needed funding to keep small businesses open. Through three rounds of funding for small businesses, LISC has awarded $7.5 million in grants for business owners to use for pressing needs like paying rent and utilities, payroll, and outstanding debts. A key part of the contributions come in through Verizon’s #PayItForwardLIVE program, an initiative that brings together artists such as Chance the Rapper, Alicia Keys, and Billie Eilish to raise funds for small businesses. 

One of our recipients is Laura Gonzalez, owner and founder of Ambiance Skin Care and Day Spa since 2001. Since creating her spa nearly twenty years ago, she has seen her business expand from a 600 square foot salon to a 2,000 square root day spa. However, after the lockdown, her spa and retail space were temporarily closed. 

Gonzalez says that after the lockdown 25,000 retail products stayed on her shelves, and she has quickly had to move her business online. But without the Verizon grant, it would have been a challenge, her computer recently crashed and the funds are a critical lifeline at this time.

“I’m so grateful for the Verizon grant. With that money I can work on creating an e-commerce site, redoing my website and buying a new computer.  Having a new platform to sell retail online could be very useful for the future,” says owner Laura Gonzalez. 

Retail Space at Ambiance Skin Care and Day Spa

Another recipient of the fund is Antonio’s Barber Supply, an even longer standing family-owned business located in Long Beach. This business has been around for 73 years, and was once Arnold’s Barber Supply before it was taken over by the Barcenas family 15 years ago and made it into the thriving business it is today. When the lockdown order was put in place, Antonio’s Barber Supply revamped their existing website and began offering shipped and pick-up options. 

However, they knew they would soon have to start searching for funding elsewhere.“We applied for the emergency loan and we have not heard back from that. We were even talking to family and friends, and a few offered their help to loan us money. We were thinking of KIVA too. We were looking for other sources and praying that everything would come along well,”  says family business manager Sofia Barcenas.

When Antonio's Barber Supply received the funds they were happy to know it would help their business be around for many more years. The Small Business grant will provide the Barcenas’ business with the funds it needs for critical necessities like paying rent and purchasing inventory, as they continue to adapt their businesses.

In total, LISC has awarded grants to thirteen businesses in the first round of funding from the Small Business Relief Grants. Other businesses we hope to see thrive from this initiative are: Gibbs Family Childcare, Honduras’ Kitchen, Abundant Good, Pretty Mama, Anthony’s Handyman and General Contractor Services, Neely’s Family Stores, Ambrosia Event Services, Express Cleaners, Amyn Inc, Entrepreneur Mattie L Roberts, and Blaque Hair Studio.

It is with the greatest hope that we look to see these small businesses adapt through this challenging and unprecedented time. LISC LA plans to continue to offer funding and support at this critical time to help more of our neighbors, family, and friends survive and thrive through this situation.