Local organization forms to provide loans to Bay Area minority-owned small businesses

The kitchen is back in business at Mersea Restaurant on San Francisco’s Treasure Island, the dining area of the eatery, built out of 13 shipping containers, sits empty.

The small business is one of nearly 4 million across the state, employing more than 7 million people, forced to shut-down when coronavirus shelter-in-place orders were issued March 17.

"As far as impact, 100% zero income," said Meesun Boice, one of Mersea's founders.

Boice has retooled her restaurant for take-out using her own savings because even though she applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), she did not get it when the funds quickly ran dry. Some of those funds went to big companies, some of which have returned the money.

"I read that Ruth’s Chris got $20 million, Shake Shack got $10 million, Fogo Digdaga and it just hit me and I’ve been brave for employees and I just broke down," she said.

Boice is trying to avoid the dire projections that came out of a study by the advocacy group, Small Business Majority, which found 44% of small businesses have already closed or will likely do so in the next two months.

Local groups have formed to help fill the gap where the federal paycheck protection program could not, such as the Bay Area-based California Small Enterprise Task Force.

"This group will come together to imagine what it would look like to put a loan fund together that could be directed toward the smallest businesses with the Bay Area," according to Jay Banfield with All Home California

Banfield is part of the task force made up of philanthropists, attorneys, even volunteer law students from U.C. Berkeley.

The group plans to build a $1 billion fund with money from investors and philanthropists that will be available as a loan to small businesses, especially those run by people of color and women.

"If small businesses close, then we lose jobs and volume for people that are the most vulnerable within the Bay Area," he told KTVU Thursday.

The CEO of community development financial institution Opportunity Fund is among those who are contributing their time in the pursuit of saving small businesses and jobs.

"We’re all working very, very hard to get the capital that you need so that you not only can survive, but reopen, rebuild and revive our economy," said Luz Urrutia.

She said that the task force is working to raise $100 million for the small business fund in the next three weeks.