COVID-19: San Francisco mayor announces relief efforts for small businesses

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday that the city will try to provide relief for small business owners affected by a downturn linked to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We are starting with a million dollars for this fund which will provide at least $10,000 grants for small businesses," Breed said during a news conference in Chinatown, an area she says has been hit hard by the illness.

She said the city is now allowing small businesses to defer the next round of quarterly business taxes to February of 2021.

The mayor said that the city will work to make sure that all community-based organizations that receive funding from the city continue to receive that funding to survive.

During the public announcement that was attended by members of the Board of Supervisors and State Sen. Scott Wiener, Breed highlighted safety nets already available to employees who have found themselves without a job or their hours cut at a small business affected by the downturn. 

Breed said workers can take advantage of paid family leave and partial unemployment for those who find themselves on a reduced work schedule. Businesses experiencing financial hardship can apply for a 60-day extension to pay their payroll taxes.

On the other side of the bay in downtown Oakland, one small business was hit hard on two ends. 

“A lot of the products that are not locally sourced are coming from Asia,” said  Feelmore Adult Gallery owner Nenna Joiner. 

For the products that she did have, there was less foot traffic so she has focused on technology to market and move her products.

“We use Postmates just like other agencies," Joiner said. "Food agencies use it to deliver food to their clients so we use it." 

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She said a lot of the small businesses in downtown Oakland rely on the customers who walk by after visiting another business.

But that isn’t happening right now as evidenced at the nearby Buffet Fortuna on Broadway and 8th, which is now closed temporarily because business as slowed.

“Many of the dishes there have to be prepared – at least 80 dishes every day, every night and since business since business is down, they’re wasting so much food,” said Carl Chan, President of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. "We’re hoping there will be some sort of assistance for the small business owners, whether they be small business loans or some type of help so that they can continue to operate." 

At the Pacific Renaissance Plaza, there was further evidence that the effects of the coronavirus are creating an economic strain. Peony Banquet Hall has temporarily closed its doors.

While on MacArthur Boulevard, the owner of USA Nails in Oakland has already had to take drastic measures after she said business slowed by 50% since the outbreak.

“I have to pay taxes, I have to pay rent, I have to pay for everything, I have to pay employees,” said Suan Le. “I don’t know how long this will go on like this and how long I can handle this business."