Bay Area minority-owned businesses struggle to get PPP funding, data shows

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Local minority-owned businesses struggle to get PPP funding
The number of small businesses across the country has plummeted by 22 percent, or in other words 3.3 million businesses are gone for good, according to the latest data from a national population survey.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The number of small businesses across the country has plummeted by 22 percent, or in other words, 3.3 million businesses are gone for good, according to the latest data from a national population survey.

To put those figures into perspective, that's the largest national business decline reported on record. Many of those hit hardest are minority-owned businesses.

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ABC7 profiled three communities struggling across the Bay Area.

Meet Reign Free

Reign Free followed her dream.

"I built this from the ground up," Free said in tears, describing her business.

She built Red Door Catering, an Oakland-based company from scratch.

This week marks her 15th year anniversary, one that has little to celebrate.

"I cry every time I come inside," she said. "It's hard because you can't do that in front of your employees, you can't show that you're scared...I'm trying everything I can."

Free received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. But, like many in her position, it's not enough. She's fighting to stay open.

"It's not just me, it's so many many businesses that are struggling," she said.

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According to the most recent data from the Small Business Administration, only 14 percent of businesses chose to identify race on their loan application.

SBA data released in July reports Black-owned businesses received 1.9 percent of PPP loans. While white-owned businesses received 83 percent.

"Sources say the data hasn't changed much from then," said Cathy Adams, president of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.

"I think that some of our Black-owned businesses have been marginalized," said Adams. "There's clearly some level of systemic racism."

Adams said it was difficult to listen to business after business calling her and asking "Cathy, I don't think we're going to make it. What are we going to do?"

Meet Chelsea Hung

Chelsea Hung is the second-generation owner of the Washington Bakery & Restaurant.

The family-owned restaurant home to San Francisco's Chinatown for the past 24 years.

Hung received a PPP loan, but it wasn't enough.

"We're struggling," she said. "If we don't get the financial help... it's going to be very rough. It's going to be more layoffs... we won't even know if we will possibly make our rent."

The Chinatown Community Development Center conducted a survey of a third of restaurants in Chinatown.

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Here's what it found:

  • 37 percent of Chinatown's business applied and received PPP funding
  • 38 percent applied and their loan is still pending
  • 16 percent didn't apply
  • 9 percent were rejected

ABC7 spoke with Malcom Young, the center's executive director.

"More than anything it tells me, is we need a third round at this point. It's crucial for these businesses, they spent the money, and now they're just barely hanging on," said Young.

Meet Theresa Pasion

Theresa Pasion is the proud owner of La Palma, a Mexicatessen in the Mission.

It's been home to the corner of 24th and Florida for 67 years.

"Yeah, hanging on... or gone for good, look at my street," said Theresa Pasion, pointing out several closed businesses.

It's an eerie feeling Pasion is trying to come to terms with.

"You put your whole life into it, this is everything to us," she said.

Pasion considers herself lucky she received a PPP loan.

"Thankfully we're able to keep our employees, help them put food on the table, pay our rent," she said.

But, many of her neighbors weren't as lucky. Most businesses in the Mission's Latino Cultural District didn't get PPP loans, partly because there were few resources -- like translators -- available to help.

"We've done many applications as a business, I can see why some people would put a wrong answer...or just give up," she said describing the difficulty of the application process. "Because you had no one to ask at that time... nobody was answering the phones."

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Carlos Solórzano, is the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco.

According to the chamber, there were 12,056 Latino-owned businesses that applied for PPP loans across the Bay Area. Yet, 480 of those were declined.

"Mostly because there was lack of communication and these communities didn't understand the application requirements or have the proper paperwork ready in many cases," said Solórzano.

The lack of help, hurting every community in a different way.

"A lot of the sole proprietors and mom and pops didn't have the staff," said Adams. "We've got to work together to support these businesses, or they're not going to make it."