Marin County provides loans and grants to small businesses impacted by COVID-19

March 26, 2021

On Feb. 22, a grant and interest-free loan fund opened applications to Marin County small businesses in an effort to combat the financial hardships caused by COVID-19. Implemented by the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA SF) and Fondo Adelante, organizations that help disadvantaged families in the Bay Area, along with Marin County and Canal Alliance, the application closed on March 22. Applications are now being entered into a lottery. The Marin County Small Business Fund aims to provide $900,000 in financial assistance. They expect to give out 15 grants of about $5,000 to $10,000 each, and 45 business loans of about $5,000 to $50,000, with an anticipated average loan size of $25,000. However, there is already a higher demand for support. 

Molly Kron, a planner in the housing and federal grants division of the Community Development Agency at the County of Marin, is optimistic that they will receive applications from various businesses.

Writing down a customer’s order, Redwood senior Zoe Harrison takes the proper COVID-19 precautions to keep Mag’s Local Yogurt open.

“We’re hopeful that folks from smaller, self-employed businesses will apply for these funds. In addition, our Latinx community has been really heavily hit by the pandemic disproportionately here in Marin County. [In an effort to] focus dollars on where the pandemic is hitting hardest, we’re hoping that small business owners from our Latinx community will be applying for these funds,” Kron said.

This issue goes beyond Marin as well. According to Forbes, there was a 42 percent decrease in sales across the U.S. for Latinx-owned businesses in March and April of 2020.

Among those affected by the lockdowns are small businesses in the Bon Air Shopping Center, many of which are privately owned. Audrey Shapiro, the director of marketing at Bon Air and Larkspur Chamber of Commerce vice president, emphasized the hard work that business owners had to put in during the pandemic to continue profiting.

“We had to really adjust to meet the community’s needs and support the businesses here. When restaurants shifted to takeout only, our restaurants really adapted and stepped up and provided great takeout options. [Our retail stores] amped up their online presence. Some of them did virtual events [and] classes, and they offered more online shopping,” Shapiro said.

Aiding small businesses, a man shops locally at Victoria Bakery & Cafe.

While companies adapted to COVID-19 operations, it was not without struggle. Before this fund, there was no official grant program for Marin County businesses. Instead, much of the fundraising was organized by third parties like the Larkspur Chamber of Commerce. Julie Cervetto, the Larkspur Chamber of Commerce executive director, led a fundraising program for immediate financial relief that was distributed to local businesses in Larkspur, Greenbrae and Kentfield in June. With help from the city, the County and over 50 donors, they provided 33 businesses with almost $1,500 each. 

“I met [the business owners at the Marriott Hotel] and they came and picked up their checks. There were a lot of tears and a lot of gratitude. This is a really rough time for the businesses in this area. I grew up here. I was born and raised here in Larkspur, and I’ve never seen [such a recession],” Cervetto said.

The recent grant program may ease some of the hardships small businesses have faced during the pandemic, but it does not negate the importance of continuing to shop local, according to Cervetto.

“We have to help our businesses get through [the pandemic]. They’re what make up our community. These small businesses are extremely important. They provide community, they provide their wares, they provide a lot. It’s important that we keep them going and that they survive this,” Cervetto said.

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