Grant aims to help African American, minority businesses in Oakland survive COVID-19

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is committed to Building a Better Bay Area by focusing on our health, workplace, education and economy. The backbone of a thriving economy is thriving businesses. In Oakland, small business owners can start to apply for a grant to provide temporary relief from the impact of the novel coronavirus.

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Derreck Johnson's restaurant Home of Chicken and Waffles has thrived in Oakland and Walnut Creek for nearly two decades. But now?

"Now we're just praying and on our knees that we can get through this and continue to stay open," Johnson says.

Plates are now only "to go" orders because of COVID-19. He's had to lay off 90 percent of his staff, and business has taken a hit.

"Most restaurants I believe have dropped at least 50 percent minimum," Johnson says. "I mean, I am more like in probably the 70 to 75 percentile right now. But yet my bills haven't dropped, my utility bills are the same, my rent is the same. So, yeah I'm just trying to figure it out."

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Johnson got a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan but says he hasn't spent a dime of it.

"The restrictions on using the PPP," Johnson says, "that will put me out of business."

That's why the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce or OAACC is working to provide grants, not loans, for African American and/or minority businesses impacted by COVID-19 through its Resiliency Relief Program.

"The fund is called resilient because we are resilient," says OAACC Chairwoman Shonda Scott. "And it's a way for us to no longer just look for having a seat at the table or being brought to a table but us to work collectively to build a table."

The OAACC says black businesses were already facing inequities and insufficient services before COVID-19, and they want to make sure they survive.

"Black businesses are essential," says OAACC president Cathy Adams. "Our businesses create jobs too. Our businesses help families to as well. So there's got to be some level of help."

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The organization is working to raise a million dollars to fund the grants, through contributions from businesses, organizations and individuals.

"No amount is too small," Adams says. "And we hope that the community and our corporate members and athletes and everybody shows up and just do what they can because then I would truly believe that we are all in this together."

Johnson says right now, any amount makes an impact.

"The extra $10,000, $1,000, $500, honestly $100 right now will probably put a smile on any business owners face," Johnson says.

If you want to donate to the Resiliency Relief Program, or apply for a grant, you can go to the OAACC's website.

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