The Fresno City Council voted to provide COVID-19 financial relief for small businesses at an emergency meeting Wednesday.

Businesses with 25 or fewer employees will be eligible for 0% loans. If the business remains open for one year, the loan will be forgiven.

In a separate vote, the council allocated $750,000 for the “Save Our Small Businesses Act.” Of that, $500,000 is funding previously allocated for a senior center; $250,000 is from the city attorney’s budget.

The council also made changes to an emergency amendment covering a variety of issues approved last week.

The most significant change allows bars to reopen and provide curbside or delivery service of alcohol, provided their permit allows for such action.

Helping Business Will Help Tax Base

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“We can help (small businesses) stay in operations and protect those jobs and also protect our sales tax base, which supports essential functions like public safety and our roads and our parks.” — councilman Mike Karbassi

Councilman Mike Karbassi created the act along with councilmembers Esmeralda Soria and Luis Chavez

Karbassi is concerned about the fallout of city tax revenue in relation to businesses closing because of COVID-19.

“We can help (small businesses) stay in operations and protect those jobs and also protect our sales tax base, which supports essential functions like public safety and our roads and our parks,” Karbassi said after the meeting. “We’re trying to mitigate the fallout from the (emergency) order.”

The act will also reserve 20% of the funding for businesses with five or fewer employees.

“This will give immediate stimulus to ensure that business survives the emergency and also incentivizes to reopen and reemploy staffing that is laid off due to this emergency order,” Soria said.

Project Funding

Of the $750,000 allocated, two-thirds of the funding is from a senior center fund, a long-sought-after project.

“Our seniors are the most vulnerable population we have and we’re making a lot of sacrifices to protect them as we should,” Karbassi said. “But our businesses are unfortunately bearing the burden of that. Small business is the biggest employer in this country. We have to be responsible in this state of emergency to mitigate the impacts on those families as well. This is the most balanced approach we can find.”

Funding will also come from private contributions.

To qualify for the loan, a business must:

— Be a business located in Fresno.

— Operating viably for at least one year prior March 4, 2020 (the date Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency).

—Demonstrate a loss of 25% of revenue because of COVID-19.

— No tax liens or judgments against the business

— The owner must personally guarantee the loan.

Chamber Supports Loan Program

“This funding could go a long way in helping these businesses keep their doors open — or in many cases — reopen, and most importantly, keep people working.”Nathan Ahle, Fresno Chamber of Commerce

The “Save Our Small Businesses Act” drew praise from Fresno Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Nathan Ahle.

“It’s very encouraging to see that the Council recognizes the incredible impact small businesses have on the Fresno economy. This funding could go a long way in helping these businesses keep their doors open — or in many cases — reopen, and most importantly, keep people working,” Ahle told GV Wire. “I’ve talked with many of my counterparts in chambers of commerce across California and they’re reporting a lack of engagement by their city government to this extent, so we appreciate the council’s swift action. The Chamber stands ready to assist in these efforts where we can.”

Bars Can Reopen for Booze on the Go

The council amended its emergency ordinance permitting bars to offer curbside service or delivery of alcoholic drinks, if their license and state law allow it.

The first emergency order issued March 16 closed bars and wineries outright.

The new council action applies to liquor stores as well.

Other changes made by the council:

— Non-essential businesses that remain open in violation of the emergency ordinance will first receive a warning. Then, fines escalate to $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 with each subsequent violation.

— Fines collected by the city for businesses violating the anti-price gouging ordinance will go to a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

— Public Records Act requests will still be accepted, but may be delayed during the COVID-19 emergency. Prior language implied fulfilling the transparency measure would be suspended, along with other non-essential city services.

— Clarified the language placing a moratorium of evictions due to nonpayment of rent for residential and commercial tenants because of COVID-19 hardships. The only substantial change is that tenants have 10 days to provide a landlord documentation of such hardship, up from seven. Also, no interest, late fees, or penalties can be added.

All votes for Wednesday’s actions were unanimous.

Sporting Good Stores Allowed to Reopen

The city deemed sporting good stores as an essential business and so they will be allowed to reopen.

Garry Bredefeld, in a news release, said the stores would be allowed to sell guns and ammunition.

“We’re very pleased that these businesses are now able to reopen and serve the community. We’re also thrilled that many of our citizens will be able to return to work,” Bredefeld said.

The ban on non-essential businesses is through March 31, unless extended.

One New Emergency Order

Also on Wednesday, City Manager Wilma Quan — acting as Emergency Services Director — issued Emergency Order 2020-007 which goes into detail about rules for employees who work from home.

Mainly, the order says workers still need to log their hours and use city equipment for city work.

X Marks the Spot

A big X marked each of the socially distanced seats inside council chambers. With a listed capacity of 248, only 70 seats were available. The doors to the rarely-used second-floor seats were locked.

This is the first time the city has used this seating method.

The Fresno Board of Supervisors similarly blocked off seats at its Tuesday meeting.

Four councilmembers attended in person: Miguel Arias, Bredefeld, Karbassi, and Soria. Paul Caprioglio, Chavez and Nelson Esparza phoned in.

17 Responses

    • David Taub
      David Taub

      Yes. A business must operate in the city, and been operating for at least a year.

      • Larry Ronneberg

        Seems a shame that businesses outside of the city don’t qualify since they too contribute to the overall benefit of the county. Being in the hospitality / recreation industry and, in our case, our busiest months of the year being March, April & May, it will take at least 2 – 3 years to fully recover. Of course no one really knows if there won’t be a resurgence of the virus come fall, winter & spring of 2020 – 2021.

      • Teri

        Larry, have you checked with your local city to see if they are offering something similar? I’ve reached out to Madera to see what they are doing.

  1. Tiffanie Marshall

    Can you share the Proper SBA link to apply? There are numerous options in their website that seem a bit confusing as to which to apply for the Covid-19 relief small business loan options.

    • Bill McEwen

      It’s for businesses in Fresno that meet the guidelines spelled out by the city council.

  2. Renee Pettitt

    How do you apply for this small business loan. I clicked on the link Mike McEwen and it brought up the article, no other link.

  3. Blasenko Simunovic

    My name is Blasenko Simunovic owner of Physmed Physical Therapy in business for 30 years with 4 clinics two localized in the City of Fresno 1 in Kerman and 1 in Parlier . I have 36 employees that i’m maintaining with there payroll till this time. The business as a consequence of the Covid 19 virus has decreased 50 % or more and it will financially affect us in the near future. My intentions are to keep all my employees and there pay roll and i need urgently the help . Because our Bank that we have our Business account is not getting involved with the Small Business administration regarding all the relief programs for small business that the Government is offering I found myself in a very difficult situation to finance my company for the next 2 or 3 months . I would like to know if I have a chance with my business to participate in your program


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