Costa Mesa offers $10,000 lifeline to local businesses

Costa Mesa is offering $10,000 grants to small restaurants and personal care businesses that have been negatively affected by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Restaurants and personal care services, including hair and nail salons, barbershops, spas, massage businesses, tattoo parlors, piercing shops and skin care services, are considered non-essential and are some of the businesses most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Costa Mesa Bridge Grant Program is intended to offer relief to these small businesses that have been required to close or scale back to takeout and delivery by regional pandemic stay-at-home orders.

This is the second grant program Costa Mesa has offered to small businesses since the pandemic began.

“The city did a first grant program called the Small Business Relief Grant Program that was much broader. It was open to a wide variety of businesses,” said Dan Inloes, Costa Mesa’s Economic Development administrator. “The Bridge Grant Program was kicked off right before Christmas and is specific to the businesses that were required to be closed during the last regional stay-at-home order.”

Phase one of the Bridge Grant Program concluded in December and distributed $1.1 million in grants to local businesses. Phase two is accepting applications until February 21 at midnight, and plans on allocating a minimum of $800,000 to Costa Mesa restaurants and personal care service providers.

“A lot of cities have grant programs, and they are helpful,” said Pam Waitt, president of the Orange County Restaurant Association. “Does that keep them above water? No it doesn’t.”

Many of these businesses have received little to no federal financial support since regional stay-at-home orders began in March of last year.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 88% of California small businesses in accommodation and food services applied for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program last year, but only 27% of the businesses that applied received support.

A national survey conducted by SCORE found that despite COVID relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, only 34% of small businesses were profitable in 2020, down from 55% in 2019.

The PPIC said in a press release that while federal assistance is critical to the survival of small businesses, state and local efforts to provide financial assistance are an important stopgap to tide businesses over until federal help is available –more state and federal help is on its way.

On Wednesday, Governor Newsom and the California State Legislature announced an Immediate Action Agreement for additional funding for theCalifornia Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. The agreement will increase the program's funding from $500,000 to $2 million and will offer grants of up to $25,000 to California’s small businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic.

Legislators in Washington, D.C. are on track to pass President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan early next month. The $1.9 trillion dollar plan will include $15 billion in small business grants and $35 billion to lenders serving small businesses.

Some worry that the plan will not be enough if COVID outbreaks cause more shutdowns.

“When the government is mandating that you shut down, they should compensate all of that lost revenue, because it's not just the restaurant, it's all of the employees that are depending on it to keep a roof over their head, and their families fed,” Waitt said. “Moving forward if we're going to ask businesses to shut down, we better be able to financially compensate them.”

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