The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was much applauded — and even more needed — when passed by the U.S. Congress at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. This monumental legislation sought to economically support small ventures which had suddenly lost business due to the public health crisis. The idea was for employers to receive forgivable loans to keep staff on payroll, thereby lessening the unemployment rate.
Opportunity gap revealed
As PPP loans began to be disbursed in early April, MEDA was hearing stories of woe from local businesses in San Francisco’s Mission District. Turns out many were unable to access the capital they needed to tide them over. There were few relationships with traditional lenders, and funds quickly dried up as they went to larger businesses. Frustration mounted in our community.
With MEDA having a trusted lending arm named Fondo Adelante, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), community members began calling MEDA for PPP assistance, especially after Congress passed a second round of funding for the program in late April. Needing to pivot, MEDA did a temporary reorganization of staff to be able to efficiently and rapidly close this, and other similar, opportunity gaps for our community. MEDA also turned to a trusted partner, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, itself a CDFI, to work together to package, approve, and fund loans for our Latino- and immigrant-owned small businesses that had been left out in the cold by their banks.
The swift impact
With that newly expanded team rolling up their sleeves and using the latest tools to streamline client communications — think Zoom and Docusign — the numbers showcase the rapid impact. Fondo Adelante packaged 52 loans for neighborhood small businesses and nonprofits — half of those in just a couple of weeks — with Self-Help disbursing more than $4.3M and offering these ventures an equitable chance to adapt to the economic new reality caused by the pandemic. All told, this translates to over 400 employees and self-employed workers who are still on payroll at local in-home child care centers, hair salons, cafes and more. Such businesses are the backbone of the Mission — and any neighborhood.
Small businesses were targeted through a multi-pronged strategy that included outreach to MEDA tax clients who identified as self-employed/individual contractors, complemented by leveraging our partnerships with family child care providers through the Mission Promise Neighborhood community anti-poverty education initiative and from La Cocina, a nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in food business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color. Fondo Adelante also reached out to its existing portfolio of businesses, as well as many longtime clients of MEDA’s Business Development Program.
For 65 years, the family of Dolores Padilla-Reyes (photo, second right) has had strong ties to the Mission. That includes 30 years running her beloved, award-winning San Jalisco Restaurant, which anchors a bustling corner at South Van Ness @ 20th (Read prior blog on this business.) The feeling inside is that it’s Sunday dinner in the warmth of someone’s dining room.
When in mid-March the COVID-19 crisis compelled San Francisco to impose a shelter-in-place order, Dolores feared for her longtime business and her employees’ livelihoods. Her concerns typified that of many small businesses in the neighborhood.
When she heard about PPP, Dolores was relieved that she would have an option to sustain her business despite the loss of customer base. She reached out to her bank — to no avail. While waiting in the queue, funds dried up. So Dolores came to MEDA’s Fondo Adelante CDFI for assistance, through which her loan was packaged and funded within a few days.
While PPP only helped sustain Dolores’s business for a couple months, it gave her breathing room to adapt to a takeout-only model and ensure that San Jalisco could sustain itself through the duration of this pandemic.
There are dozens of neighborhood small businesses and nonprofits just like San Jalisco that turned to MEDA when no other financial institution would assist them with PPP. What they found in MEDA was an organization ready to demystify the program, provide bilingual loan-packaging assistance and, through a robust partnership with Self-Help, get their potentially forgivable loan funded in a matter of days.
Throughout this pandemic MEDA and its CDFI, Fondo Adelante, have acted aggressively to assist small businesses in dire need of assistance, particularly for the Mission’s Latino- and immigrant-owned ventures. Whether through PPP loan packaging, the San Francisco Hardship Emergency Loan Program (SF HELP), its assistance to businesses participating in San Francisco’s Shared Spaces Program or deploying mini-grants to hundreds of small businesses in the City, MEDA is boldly stepping up and will continue to do the work necessary during this crisis to meet our organization’s stated result that “the Mission is a strong and supportive community for Latino residents, businesses and institutions.”
MEDA and the Mission community are here to support you, your business and your family during the COVID-19 crisis. Please call MEDA’s COVID-19 Community Intake Line: (415) 612-2014.