Los Angeles County-based small businesses seeking financial relief related to COVID-19 have until the end of this month to apply for $5,000 to $25,000 grants from a regional fund that opened a new round of funding Monday.
Applications are now open through Friday for the second-to-last round of aid under the $100 million LA Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund. A final round will open Oct. 26 to give businesses one more chance to seek help.
The fund, which launched on July 6, has paid out roughly $3.2 million in grants to more than 300 local micro-entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the pandemic, according to the community development organization that administers the money. While the fund started small, an additional $100 million in coronavirus relief fund money — $60 million from the county and $40 million from the city of Los Angeles — was announced in September.
Eligibility for each grant level is tied to specific revenue limits and, in the case of nonprofits, includes a requirement that programs serve low- to moderate-income communities.
There should be plenty of demand, given the number of struggling businesses. And even gig workers and street vendors can apply for loans of up to $5,000, provided they have a tax return to prove their annual income is less than $100,000.
However, it may still prove daunting to put all $100 million to work in the space of one month. Even if all businesses were eligible for $25,000 grants, that would mean managing 4,000 applications, and based on the fund’s average grants to date, the total would be more like 9,000 applications.
A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a question about how any money not distributed would be redeployed. Federal coronavirus relief dollars are required to be spent in full by the end of the year.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation Los Angeles was chosen by the county to get dollars to many businesses that were left of federal aid programs, sometimes due to financial, technical or cultural barriers.
“Our small businesses and nonprofits are being stretched extremely thin right now, with some on the brink of collapse because of the pandemic,” said LISC LA Director Tunua Thrash-Ntuk. “It’s unfortunately no surprise that many of the businesses unable to access the financial support they need are owned by entrepreneurs of color who face cultural, technical, and/or other barriers to entry.
“The LA COVID Fund is working to bridge that gap, and is a step in the right direction when it comes to equity in grantmaking,” Thrash-Ntuk said. “The LISC LA team is proud to be doing what we do best, providing the capital and resources to those who need it most.”
LISC is running a bilingual digital advertising and grassroots outreach campaign designed to reach those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic, the director said.
Grant recipients are chosen through a randomized application system, although certain applicants are given priority weighting, including veteran-owned small businesses, and businesses in city and county districts that have a higher unemployment rate, lower education rate, lower median household income and lower jobs-to-population rate.
Olasteo, a student-centric nonprofit serving the Watts community, received a grant to keep its doors open despite COVID-19. Olasteo’s two co-founders, working with a handful of volunteers, provide experiential programs and educational opportunities to empower students.
“While we will continue our fundraising efforts to be able to continue our programming, this grant will help ensure we can run our summer program remotely and add a fall program,” co-founder Aaron Friedman said.
Another grant recipient is El Arte Barbershop, a family-owned establishment that has served the South Los Angeles community for more than 40 years. The pandemic put owner Roberto Sanchez at risk of being evicted. Instead, he was able to upgrade equipment, make repairs and ensure his business complied with new COVID-19 safety standards in preparation for reopening.
“Through the decades, we’ve been a staple of the community,” Sanchez said. “I’d like to express my deep appreciation for this help. My livelihood had been at risk and the grant minimized that risk.”
Interested businesses can check eligibility requirements and apply at www.lacovidfund.org.
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