Garcetti aims to give thousands to COVID-stung businesses. Owners call it ‘a drop in the bucket’
In his annual State of the City speech, Mayor Eric Garcetti suggested multiple programs to speed up economic recovery, following a turbulent pandemic-jolted year that devastated many small businesses.
As part of his proposed 2021-22 budget, Garcetti offered a $25-million program and $5,000 checks to 5,000 small businesses to help them pay off debt and purchase new equipment.
“Businesses who want to open or re-open those doors, your city is going to have your back so you can reopen, hire up, and spread the wealth,” he said last week during his annual address.
It isn’t enough, they’ve said in response. Business owners say they require more relief following a year of uncertainty, big drops in sales, layoffs and other significant losses.
A $5,000 check would be “a drop in the bucket,” said Camila Perry, who owns two bars in Sherman Oaks and Hollywood. “It’s not going to save us.”
The pandemic has taken a mammoth toll on small businesses, particularly operations run by minorities and women.
Experts say restaurants, shops, gyms, bars and beauty salons were hardest hit by the pandemic as many of them live paycheck to paycheck, lacking significant savings to withstand such a drastic economic downturn.
In Los Angeles County, nearly 15,000 businesses closed in the last year. Despite an influx of government stimulus money and loans, about a half of them are expected to shut down for good.
A recent survey by WalletHub showed that about 61 million small business owners nationwide say they regret starting a business. Nearly 50 million businesses said it will take more than a year for them to return to pre-pandemic sales.
A February report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. pinpointed several initiatives that would spur economic recovery, including assisting small and minority-owned businesses with grants, rental assistance, housing vouchers, provide training and grants to businesses that were closed to relaunch new business ventures along with offering childcare through vouchers and new services.
In the last 12 months, Perry was allowed to reopen for a quick period of time while amassing nearly $90,000 in back rent amid coronavirus shutdown. Earlier this month she reopened indoor dining at 25% capacity and while her income has doubled since then, she was still far from being out of the woods.
“Small businesses are behind on rent,” she said, “and that’s why people walk away.”
What would help, she added, if the city would provide tax breaks for landlords who are willing to negotiate leases with their tenants.