Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program
As the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the closure of Long Beach’s economy in March 2020, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) and Farmers & Merchants (F&M) Bank acted swiftly to provide Downtown small businesses with emergency financial relief. Thanks to the generosity of F&M, a total of $30,000 was distributed in the form of micro-grants to 33 Downtown businesses.
“Farmers & Merchants Bank is proud to partner with DLBA to assist local business in this time of need,” said W. Henry Walker, F&M Bank President. “We are grateful for the opportunity to serve small businesses, just as we have been since 1907.”
Originally, F&M committed three-year funding towards the DLBA’s Women-Owned Business Grant Accelerator and its Entrepreneurial and Small Business Education Series, both slated for early summer 2020. As the COVID-19 health crisis forced many businesses to close their doors or alter their operations, DLBA quickly pivoted and came together with F&M to re-purpose this program and provide economic relief in the form of micro-grants.
Administered by the DLBA, the micro-grants were awarded to Downtown Long Beach small business owners who met certain qualifications, including attending an online Small Business Resiliency workshop hosted by the City of Long Beach and held in conjunction with the Long Beach Economic Partnership, a nonprofit development corporation dedicated to business and workforce development, affordable housing and other economic initiatives. To qualify, applicants also completed a one-on-one consulting session with a Small Business Development Advisor from the Small Business Development Center.
When COVID-19 hit, sip and paint studio Pinot’s Palette, located at 470 Pine Avenue, had to close its doors. Without a revenue stream, owner Monica Ochoa had to make the difficult decision to let go of employees and transition her business operations online. “We had to adapt,” she said, explaining that the business now offers virtual classes. The DLBA + F&M Small Business Emergency Assistance micro-grant helped Ochoa with her most significant financial burden during COVID-19: rent. “Any help at this point is really welcome,” she said. “It definitely helped.”
Armando Velazquez, owner of Long Beach Taco Company, applied for the grant program because of the economic uncertainty created by COVID-19. “Business went from busy to no business in like a day,” he recounted. “Obviously, it was scary, and the bills never stopped coming in. In the midst of all that, there were some blessings, like this grant and the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan. Getting the grant was a huge help.”