On Thursday, Sept. 9, the Mt. Vernon Corridor Small Business Consortia held a community meeting where small business owners demanded their fair share (in micro-grants) of the city’s $77 million American Rescue Plan Funds.
San Bernardino City Council discussed the allocation of the funds in early August, but small business owners were left out.
Local small business owners, including Juan Pollo and Gus Jr., were in attendance providing testimonials in front of city elected officials, and an estimated 70 attendees in the banquet room at Mitla Cafe, in San Bernardino’s west side.
Elected officials such as Mayor John Valdivia, 3rd Ward Councilman Juan Figueroa and 7th Ward Councilman Damon Alexander were present with listening ears, along with a stacked presence from the San Bernardino Police Department.
“I didn’t come here to talk, I came here to listen. You all heard about the $77 million American Rescue Plan and looking at what the city proposed and what (5th Ward) Councilman Ben Reynoso said on the dais…none of that money was directed towards small businesses. Some funds need to be allocated to you and it can be allocated, as long as the council approves it,” said Councilman Alexander.
City council reiterated the point that they were present to listen to the difficulties and impacts the COVID-19 pandemic placed on businesses over the course of the past year-and-a-half.
“We bought Gus Jr. two years ago and we’ve lost a ton of business. We’re asking for help to sustain our operations and in return, we’ll be able to support the city. We have electric and gas bills in excess of $25,000,” said Gus Jr. owner Muhammad.
About five business owners provided testimonials, including the owner of Buena Market Rick Singh.
“Our shops, restaurants, markets, bakeries, and barbershops have all been and continue to be negatively impacted by the horrible and deadly impacts of COVID-19. For too long our community has suffered in silence, suffered economically, socially, and emotionally from the remnants of the shutdown. We will be silent no more,” said Singh.
The hour-long meeting also featured words from San Bernardino’s Interim Chief of Police David Green.
“We’re here today to support our local small businesses, connect with the community and ensure business owners that we’re here to support them. The police department is your resource and an asset to assist you at any time,” said Green. The meeting wrapped with a question and answer segment and the business owners in attendance had the opportunity to network with elected officials before and after the meeting.