HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- By some estimates, about 6,000 businesses have closed in the Bay Area since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March about half permanently.
Minority and women-owned businesses are among them. However, they're getting help with something called "microloans" from nonprofit lenders. They're small loans that can help them to survive.
RELATED: $5,000 in grant money being offered to help small businesses in SJ, SF gear up for winter
This was supposed to be the best year yet for Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas. The family-owned business was selling 40,000 tamales per month with contracts to sell to Facebook, Google, Twitter and Chase Center. Then the pandemic hit.
"We lost all our business all at once. And I could say like 95% of our business is gone," said founder Alicia Villanueva.
Villanueva, her husband Pedro and their son started by selling tamales door to door, and they were prepared to start over to keep their 25 employees working.
Small businesses like this often don't have a relationship with regular banks. However, the nonprofit microlender Opportunity Fund has stepped in.
VIDEO: Smoke impacts outdoor dining for East Bay restaurants already struggling during COVID-19
"This is a reflection of the long-standing biases, our financial system that has left minority-owned businesses undercapitalized with less resources and sitting in the back of the line," said Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia. "We need to change that."
Opportunity Fund has made almost 1,000 microloans since March. The average loan, $15,000. It gave Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas time and money to diversify its product line and to pursue new customers. Mrs. Villanueva did not have to lay off anyone.
"I really need to work hard for them," she said. The family had struggled to start their business. Mrs. Villanueva had worked as a housecleaner while her husband was a painter.
Opportunity Fund's focus is to help minority and women-owned small businesses. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has raised $3.5 million for microloans. Comcast has contributed $350,000.
RELATED: Pleasanton restaurant owners frustrated after Alameda County delays indoor dining
What's the impact? A 94% survival rate and a 95% repayment rate according to Opportunity Fund. Each microloan results in three jobs created or saved. For every $1 loaned, there is $2 in economic activity generated.
Thanks to its microloans, Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas is bouncing back, selling its products to Lunardi's, Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl and online at Williams Sonoma.
For more information on Opportunity Fund and how to apply for a loan, click here.
App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.
Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- Map: CA counties that can, can't reopen under new rules
- Updated number of COVID-19 deaths, cases in Bay Area
- COVID-19 Help: Comprehensive list of resources, information
- California EDD: The most commonly asked questions we get about unemployment and PUA
- How to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and coronavirus symptoms
- Here's which mask is better to protect from COVID-19
- First COVID-19 vaccine volunteers in US describe experience as Bay Area launches vaccine trials
- From salons to dinner parties: Experts rate the risk of 12 activities
- Coronavirus origin: Where did COVID-19 come from?
- What is a COVID-19 genetic, antigen and antibody test?
- What will it take to get a COVID-19 vaccine and how will it be made?
- What does COVID-19 do to your body and why does it spread so easily?
- Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area
- COVID-19 Diaries: Personal stories of Bay Area residents during novel coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic