San Diego County expands small business loan program to include businesses in cities

The County Administrative Center where the Board of Supervisors meet.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a measure Tuesday that supervisors hope will help provide behavioral health services to individuals when they interact with the criminal justice system.
(John R. McCutchen)

County loaned $1 million of $5 million to small businesses in unincorporated areas; now businesses across the county can apply


San Diego County supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday, Sept. 29, to expand the county’s $5 million small business loan COVID relief program regionwide to small businesses operating in cities.

Supervisors in late April established the loan program initially to help businesses in the unincorporated areas that are experiencing hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program had $5 million to allocate but nearly $1 million has been loaned so far.

At the time, only businesses in the unincorporated areas with fewer than 50 employees could qualify for loans, which can be as large as $50,000 with up to 2 percent interest. The loans have to be paid back within two years.

However with Tuesday’s action, all qualifying small businesses in San Diego County — including those operating in cities — can now apply for the loans.

Thus far the program has provided 27 businesses with loans totaling $827,000, and another four businesses are closing on loans totaling $125,000, according to county documents.

County supervisors said Tuesday that $4 million currently unallocated will provide significant relief to many more businesses.

“It only makes sense to open it up to additional businesses in the region,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who co-authored the proposal with Supervisor Jim Desmond. “Businesses are still suffering and could use another lifeline to get them through this pandemic.”

Businesses operating in the unincorporated areas will still receive priority.

Expanding the small business loan program is one of several steps supervisors have taken in recent months to aid small businesses during the pandemic.

Earlier this summer county supervisors established a stimulus grant program using some of the remaining CARES Act funds from the federal stimulus package. That program gives each of the county’s five supervisors $3.4 million to distribute in grants, as well as $700,000 each to focus on restaurants.

So far more than $14.5 million in grants have been distributed, assisting thousands of businesses.

In early August the board also unanimously adopted a proposal to streamline the application process and waive permit fees, so houses of worship and gyms that can’t operate indoors under public health restrictions can reserve space in county parks.

Many cities throughout the region also have stepped up with loan and grant programs targeting small businesses.

At the end of March, the City of San Diego approved a $6.1 million relief package that included grants and loans — from $10,000 to $20,000 — for city businesses with `100 workers or fewer, while the City of San Marcos set aside $3 million for a business sustainability loan program.

In April the City of Poway created a $2 million business loan program for businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees, and the City of Coronado opted to draw $2 million out of its reserves to support a “Lifeline Business Loan program.”

—Charles T. Clark is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune