Small business owners in the Mission today celebrated their own resilience and thanked the city of San Francisco for its support throughout the pandemic. Now, they are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and Mayor Breed’s announcement of $4.5 million in grants to over 560 small businesses offers even more reassurance.
“Thank you, we really need this in these hard times,” said Connie Rivera, the owner of Mixcoatl, who has struggled to pay rent during the pandemic, but was able to survive because of a forgiving landlord.
In front of Rivera’s colorful store, a family-run gift shop on 24th Street, Mayor London Breed joined Supervisor Hilary Ronen, and Kate Sofis, the director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to distribute four $10,000 checks, one to Mixcotl and the others to four other small Mission businesses.
“Time to enjoy the city like never before,” Breed said.
While the $10,000 grants represent a fraction of what each business lost during the pandemic, business owners continue to apply for other assistance programs.
“We are doing everything in our power to make it easier to run and operate a small business,” said supervisor Ronen. “We will be back better than ever before.”
The grants are part of the Small Business Relief Grants program, which aims to support small businesses that did not receive additional funding from state and federal programs, and is run by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD).
Diana Ponce De León, of the OEWD, was one of the people who helped small business owners apply for the city-funded program. She said that it was important to have a low barrier of entry for this program. They did not require owners to have employees and even allowed some of the grants to go to businesses that opened during the pandemic. The grants range from $5,000 to $10,000.
In the end, Ponce De León said that through the program’s outreach, and with the support of community organizations, the program naturally found its way to supporting women-owned businesses and businesses owned by underrepresented groups. Over 50 percent of the 560 grants distributed thus far have gone to women-owned businesses. And 80 percent of the $4.5 million dollar total has gone to minority-owned businesses.
Kate Sofis, who has been the director of the Economic and Workforce Development Office for just seven months, said “Today is about recognizing how hard it has been and our continued commitment to helping these businesses survive and recover.”
Carmen Elias, the owner of La Mejor Bakery, said she was grateful for community support. Elias, who was one of the businesses to receive a $10,000 check today, thanked Ponce De León, of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, for helping her with the online application and for teaching her how to read her email.
Amy Vito, who owns Beloved Cafe with her husband Kambiz Fahim, was equally grateful for the financial support. “It feels like recognition of what we’ve been through, and it means a lot to us.”
The next round of Small Business Relief Grants is expected to support more than 700 businesses. The grant will continue to target small businesses in commercial corridors which contribute to the culture and vibrancy of neighborhoods.
“Small businesses are the heart of San Francisco. They are family-owned and have a strong legacy for the community. We will continue to stay focused on standing up for this business,” said director of the OEWD Kate Sofis.