California Rebuilding Fund aims to rescue at-risk small businesses as pandemic brings uncertainty

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One in three small businesses is on the edge and may not survive the next three months without help. That's the dire forecast by the Bay Area group Small Business Majority. The economy is an important pillar of Building A Better Bay Area.

California is home to over four million small businesses. The pandemic has had the hardest impact on ones owned by minorities. They often don't have access to traditional lenders. A public-private partnership of community groups, lenders and government has formed the California Rebuilding Fund to make low-interest loans to help small businesses survive.

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"There's no better bet than on a small business owner who has, you know, pours their heart and soul and effort and time into make their businesses succeed," said Beeth Bafford, vice president at Calvert Impact Capital, one of the partners in the state subsidized program.

A total of $50 million has been raised so far to make short-term loans up to $100,000 that have to be repaid in three or five years at 4.25 percent interest. A key provision is interest only is due during the first year.

Deanna Sison is an entrepreneur who had three small businesses pre-pandemic with 30 employees. Two of her businesses have closed while she focuses on keeping the restaurant Little Skillet going with a skeleton staff of seven.

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"It's their families, it's helping keeping them employed and having a means to survive and put food on the table, which in turn helps our neighborhoods, and it helps the greater community. For me, that's my motivation," she said.

A loan from Opportunity Fund is helping her weather the pandemic. Pacific Community Ventures says mentorship is just as important as lending capital.

"Imagine your town without your favorite restaurant or your favorite shops, your Main Street," said Bulbul Gupta of Pacific Community Ventures. "So keeping Main Street businesses alive through this crisis is really a part of keeping our communities alive as well."

The California Rebuilding Fund has already started receiving what it expects will be thousands of loan applications.

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.

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