Mayor London Breed Announces $3.5 Million Expansion in Financial Relief for Small Businesses
Since March, San Francisco has dedicated nearly $21 million in grants and loans to support more than 1,150 small businesses and their employees
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced a $3.5 million expansion of the San Francisco Hardship and Emergency Loan Program (SF HELP). The program will provide zero interest loans of up to $50,000 to approximately 80 small businesses as San Francisco continues on the road to economic recovery. Since the beginning of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the City has identified nearly $21 million in grants and loans for more than 1,150 local small businesses and their employees.
SF HELP promotes Mayor Breed’s focus on economic recovery. With thin margins and few reserves, many small businesses are relying on credit in order to bridge the reduced revenues that they have seen over the past several months. SF HELP fills a gap for very small businesses that lack meaningful access to credit. By offering a tool designed to sustain disadvantaged small businesses and give them the capital required to re-start their operations, SF HELP aims to advance recommendations from the City’s Economic Recovery Task Force to provide local economic stimulus, promote safe reopening, and pursue economic justice.
“I’m so glad that we’re able to provide another round of much-needed funding for San Francisco’s small businesses. COVID-19 isn’t over and as we begin the hard work of recovering as a city, we need to continue to be there for our businesses—especially those who have difficulty accessing other forms of credit or financial assistance,” said Mayor Breed. “These zero-interest loans will help our beloved neighborhood businesses and entrepreneurs reopen safely. Small businesses, like our neighborhood restaurants, corner markets, and hair salons, keep our commercial corridors thriving and provide employment for San Franciscans. Their survival and success will help us recover together.”
The $3.5 million expansion of SF HELP will focus on private, for-profit low-income to moderate-income small businesses. The loans can be used to pay for payroll, rent, inventory, equipment, and other operating expenses businesses have as they gradually reopen. They are zero interest loans up to $50,000, with a repayment term of up to six years. There are no loan fees, personal guarantees, or collateral requirements for the borrower.
SF HELP supports entrepreneurs and business owners who are the backbone of San Francisco’s economy, many of whom are people of color with limited access to traditional credit and affordable financing. SF HELP offers the bridge financing businesses need to make it through the pandemic and provides the financial support they need to reopen and recover. The program was created in April 2020 and since then has funded 227 small businesses with $8.5 million in loans and programming. Of the 227 loans awarded, 74% are minority-owned small businesses and 52% are women-owned businesses; representing more than 20 different types of sectors such as bars, hair salons, dry cleaners, health services, restaurants, manufacturers, gyms, and child care, etc. in San Francisco. Altogether, these businesses were able to retain nearly 730 jobs. For more information on the impact of SF HELP and other financial relief for businesses, go to oewd.org/impact.
“The success of minority-owned businesses - who make up more than half of San Francisco’s small business communities - is essential for an equitable recovery and our City’s ongoing cultural and economic vitality. SF HELP has been a lifeline for those small businesses hardest hit by this pandemic, including our women-owned businesses, providing access to the capital they need to operate, pay their rent and keep their employees,” said Joaquín Torres, Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “We’re grateful for the partnerships that expand SF HELP and allow our most vulnerable San Francisco small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to feel some relief. Together with the Mission Economic Development Agency and the State’s IBank, we’re making the most of the City’s philanthropic contributions to provide easy access to the funds that will bridge small businesses as they reopen, rehire employees, and bring back the economic activity and community services that our neighborhoods need.”
SF HELP is a result of public and private partnerships that leverage various resources, including the City’s General Fund and donations to the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. This expansion of SF HELP was developed in collaboration with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), a nonprofit partner that works to provide and support small businesses with technical assistance and other services to help them reopen and recover. MEDA used $1 million from Give2SF and the City’s General Fund and a finance tool from the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) to leverage and expand the loan program by $2.45 million.
“The reality for small businesses in our City has changed dramatically since March 2020. Most small businesses have a vastly diminished customer base, if they are able to continue operating at all. Many have had to lay off their workers, and even if they received a PPP loan, those funds have been long since spent,” said Luis Granados, Chief Executive Officer, MEDA. “MEDA’s Fondo Adelante, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), is proud to partner with Mayor Breed, OEWD and the California I-Bank to put into action SF HELP -- an equitable solution for quickly deploying stopgap, no-cost capital during this crisis.”
“The SF HELP loan gave us a sense of security,” said Natalia Bartrom of Infinite Beauty. “I now have confidence that I can stay in business instead of closing down.”
“The SF HELP loan helped my business with the capital it needed to stay afloat during COVID-19. It would have been very difficult to survive without this program,” said Ariel Lowis Balam-Diaz of Mi Yucatan. “I am using the funds to pay past due rent, hire an employee to help me as we reopen, and to purchase inventory.”
“Our business has not been the same since we had to shut down because of the pandemic,” said Abdul Alrammah of Yemen Kitchen. “We’ve lost about 75% of our business. Our SF HELP loan will help us pay some of our back rent – we’re 5 months behind – and pay our 2 employees.”
The loans can be used for payroll, rent, other fixed costs and inventory. Small businesses interested in applying for SF HELP can visit link.oewd.org/zeroloan. The deadline to apply is November 25 at 11:59 p.m. MEDA will then hold a lottery to determine which businesses will be invited to submit a formal application; this lottery will include a preference for low- to moderate-income-owned businesses throughout the city.