Coronavirus

Small-business owners seek guidance at webinar

A webinar last week aimed at small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak offered information on funding options and resources available at the local, state and federal levels. 

Co-hosted by the city of Los Altos, the Los Altos Village Association, Los Altos Property Owners Downtown and the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, the May 8 webinar drew approximately 30 participants.

Los Altos economic development coordinator Anthony Carnesecca and Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center director Dennis King and center members Allie Lopez and Kevin McClelland shared insight as well as survival tips for enduring the business environment in the age of COVID-19.

City efforts

Carnesecca reminded the business owners that while some sectors have resumed operations under the revised Santa Clara County shelter-in-place order in effect through May 31, retail stores are not yet permitted to reopen. The state has allowed retailers to begin offering curbside pickup and other services, but the county’s more restrictive order supercedes it. 

The city of Los Altos is connecting small businesses with the organizations that hosted the webinar as well as the Town Crier to ensure that the city’s efforts and resources are well publicized.

In addition to small businesses, Carnesecca said the city is focusing on helping the community as a whole through morale campaigns, website and social media updates on county orders, virtual town halls with Mayor Jan Pepper and City Manager Chris Jordan and the city manager’s weekly newsletter.

An ongoing collaboration among the webinar’s sponsors is the What’s Open Los Altos campaign, designed to drum up business. In addition, members of the organizations are consulting with Carnesecca and Jordan to determine best practices for disbursing grants from the city’s small-business relief fund. The Los Altos City Council approved the $250,000 fund April 28, and business advocates hope to find additional donors.

Selecting the right capital

Carnesecca pointed webinar participants to Facebook’s and Salesforce’s small-business grants and Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s small-business fund at the local level, the California GO-Biz iBank loan program and the Great Plates Delivered program at the state level and the Small Business Administration’s Economic Disaster Injury Loan and Paycheck Protection Program options at the federal level.

King, McClelland and Lopez expanded on the funding options, especially from the state and the federal government. King and McClelland both encouraged business owners to reach out to the Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center for free one-on-one mentoring, noting how the loan and grant programs are evolving as quickly as the shelter-in-place guidelines. They reported that the Paycheck Protection Program is “alive and well” and has approximately 40% of funds still to disburse to businesses in need.

The business leaders told webinar participants that it’s important to decide what type of funding is most appropriate for their businesses before applying. After that, formulating a step-by-step plan for reopening should be the owners’ main focus.

In response to a participant’s question, McClelland said developing a detailed plan for how employees and customers physically interact is the best way to prevent potential lawsuits in a “litigious society.” It also ensures that when businesses finally reopen, they can remain open, Carnesecca added.

For more information on the city of Los Altos’ COVID-19 resources, visit bit.ly/2YRR2uZ. For more information on the Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center, visit svsbdc.org.

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