By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Councilmember Mike Bonin hosted a Telephone Town Hall on Thursday, May 14, to offer support and resources to small businesses during the pandemic. This was the fifth town hall of the series.
Joining him were Teri Billups, assistant district director for economic development of the U.S. Small Business Administration; Billy Chun, deputy mayor for economic development for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office; and Carolyn Hull, general manager of the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department.
“This is a disturbing and trying time for us all where our lives and our routines have been upended, and it has been particularly burdensome economically,” Bonin said. “We are experiencing record unemployment and layoffs, and a loss of economic activity that is impacting many, many people and impacting many, many businesses.”
A survey preceded the call and found that 64% of business owners who responded are afraid their business will not survive, 75% are struggling to pay their rent or lease pay, and 30% had to shut down their businesses entirely.
The panelists each gave a brief introduction before taking questions from Angelenos, starting with Billups who works with the SBA—the only cabinet-level federal agency that is fully dedicated to small businesses.
Billups shared that the SBA has offered a number of loans and debt relief to small businesses.
Additionally the portal for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is currently open to small businesses in the agricultural sector and to small businesses that applied earlier in March only, but should open to businesses more widely sometime soon. There is no current timeline but Billups recommended signing up for emails or following the SBA on social media for up-to-date information.
Billups added that a lot of money has been dispersed through the Payment Protection Program and that there is still money available. PPP funding helps businesses keep their workforce employed. It is also open to employees who are self-employed or independent contractors.
Next on the panel was Chun, whose mission revolves around growing LA’s economy, which includes creating jobs, attracting investment and increasing tourism, “which is key to a lot of the business here on the Westside,” Bonin said.
Chun said new ideas and programs will be rolled out, but for those interested, LA Protects is an open portal for connecting businesses and needs. With Angelenos required to wear masks outside of their homes now, there is an increasing demand for manufacturing masks.
“Any garment manufacturer or business can sign up and say, ‘We’ve manufactured jeans before but now we’ll pivot our business to create masks,’” Chun said.
Chun added LA Protects has seen great success, especially in the apparel industry.
Similarly, restaurants can participate in the Senior Meal Emergency Response Program, connecting senior citizens who don’t have the means to restaurants that can produce meals for them.
Hull, the final panelist, said EWDD has been working tirelessly with small businesses throughout the city and region, providing programs that offer assistance in business support and more to grow and improve LA’s economy.
Hull shared the many resources EWDD has to offer but recommended navigating the website to find the technical assistance necessary. The business response unit is a critical part of its program as it assists businesses reopening, and understanding new regulations.
“There is such a strong, unmet demand,” Hull said. “Our department is here to help small businesses work through the issues at hand and to help all of us cope with our new normal.”
Bonin shared that the city is continuously considering and working on a number of other ways to help small businesses. In the coming weeks another Telephone Town Hall will take place.
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