‘Move quickly and provide relief’: State, local governments try to ease pressure on small businesses

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The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to both the state and local governments trying to relieve economic pressure off of businesses.

On March 23, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma released updated statements regarding state assistance to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the press release, Ma said her office added resource lists on tax relief and food access. This is in addition to the previously compiled lists on help with grants, loans, tax deadline extensions and guidance on how to protect workers.

“These new lists are part of my continuing efforts to keep Californians informed about changing rules and deadlines and give them access to resources that will help them navigate these troubled times more effectively,” Ma said in the press release.

Ma also cautioned people regarding potential scam callers who pose as government representatives, according to Mark DeSio, spokesperson for the State Treasurer’s Office. DeSio added that government representatives mail notices and do not place calls to ask for personal information.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also announced more measures to support small businesses, including a federal fund and a state fund for loans. In addition to state measures, the city of Berkeley approved several measures to aid businesses such as the Berkeley Relief Fund, which provides relief grants to various affected communities.

“I would say that in general, especially being in California and Berkeley, the response from the government has been very helpful,” said Alex Knox, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District. “There has been a genuine interest on their part to move quickly and provide relief. I think they recognize the severity of their problem and are doing their best to respond accordingly.”

Knox added that the impact of COVID-19 has been “very severe” for most businesses in the Telegraph Avenue district and that it may be hard for businesses in the area to stay open without a return to normal commerce.

He noted that while essential businesses are open in the area, it is not sustainable in the long term. Knox said businesses are trying new methods to stay open.

“We will be working to make sure that our businesses are accessing those funds and having the resources necessary to survive and be competitive,” Knox said. “There is a lot of work that we need to do locally to support ourselves, and that requires the community getting together.”

Doris Moskowitz, the owner of Moe’s Books, said COVID-19 has had a large impact on her store. She added that online sales only make up 20% of her sales in a regular month but are now 100% of the store’s income with the store closed to in-person contact.

Moskowitz also added that her business has applied for various loans, including the Berkeley Relief Fund, but she is worried about the future of her business.

“We are just a small business trying to make it work,” Moskowitz said. “I applied for loans, but I haven’t heard back. … It takes time, I guess. I’m confident we will qualify as an independent bookstore.”

Contact Nina Narahari at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.