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Fresno Awards 0% Loans to 116 Small Businesses Impacted by COVID



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Teri Sanchez will use her Save Our Small Businesses funds to pay the debt on her catering company.

Sunny Sehgal will use his funds to help keep his family’s restaurant open for take-out and delivery.

They own two of the 116 small businesses named as recipients from the city of Fresno’s $750,000 loan-to-grant program. The 0% loans will be converted to grants if the business remains open after one year.

According to city data, more than $8.6 million was requested by small businesses. The loans will support 485 jobs.

Thousands Applied, More Money Coming

At a news conference at Sehgal’s closed India’s Oven restaurant in the Tower District, councilmembers Miguel Arias and Esmeralda Soria announced the winners of the lottery among the 1,068 small businesses that qualified for the program.

“(The Tower District) depends on a lot of dine-in services from our great restaurants,” Arias said. “As a result of this investment that we’ve made in giving the public taxpayer money back to the taxpayers, we ended up having quite a bit of Tower businesses benefiting.”

In total, 2,634 businesses applied, with 851 applications rejected because they were incomplete. Another 58 were duplicates.

The list of recipients represents a cross-section of businesses: restaurants and catering, legal services, barbershops, and salons.

Soria, who co-sponsored the legislation with District 2 councilmember Mike Karbassi,  said it is meant to help those businesses unable to receive federal stimulus money.

“A lot of Fresno local small mom and pop businesses were left out. That’s why this type of program is so critical for our community,” Soria said.

The Fresno City Council on Thursday voted to add $1.5 million to the fund, with further details to be worked out at a future meeting. It is likely that those who applied for the initial round won’t have to apply again.

The council is exploring whether it can utilize $92 million in federal stimulus funds for the program.

Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Esmeralda Soria announce the recipients from their districts. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Caterer Lost All Clients

Sanchez’s Eat It Up Catering counted on hotels and country clubs as her clients.

With the cancelation of weddings and parties, Sanchez hasn’t had a job since March 13. She estimated a loss of $50,000 in revenue.

“My business has been hit really hard. I mean, we feed groups of people,” Sanchez said. “I have nothing until maybe the end of July. So, for a company like mine, you can see how devastating it is.”

Her business received $5,000 from the city. She said she was too small for the federal Payment Protection Program and is signed up for unemployment.

Sanchez is optimistic things will improve. She recently signed a contract to provide food to a charter school.

That’s a saving grace,” Sanchez said.

Family Restaurant Furloughs Workers

Sehgal’s family still operates the India’s Oven at 3035 W. Ashlan Ave. While he hasn’t let go of any of his 18 employees, they are being furloughed.

It’s been about an 85% decrease in revenue. It’s been tough, but we’re fortunate that we have help. Our customers have been really supportive,” Sehgal said.

The $10,000 his restaurant received will help pay for expenses to keep the oven on.

The Tower District’s India’s Oven, which is owned by Sunny Sehgal’s family, received a 0% loan from the city of Fresno to help with COVID-19 impacts. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Program Details

The city council passed the act on March 25 as a way to help small businesses stay alive during the coronavirus pandemic.

After establishing qualifications nearly two weeks later, the city set an April 12 deadline to apply.

Qualifying businesses were then selected lottery, split among the seven council districts.

The program awarded businesses with between six and 25 employees with a $10,000 loan-to-grant; businesses with five or fewer employees will receive $5,000.

Other criteria included a city of Fresno business license, no current unpaid judgments or tax liens, and at a minimum 25% business loss because of COVID-19.

There are no restrictions on how businesses us the money.

Arias said during the next round of funding, recipients could be limited to certain business sectors.

City staff and a council subcommittee will study the issue and report back to the full council by May 6 to approve more program funding.

He also believes other changes will come to help more businesses qualify.

We also learned that some businesses had liens, which we didn’t make them eligible for this first round. We’re probably going to remove that because we know some of these businesses got liens as a result of being closed and not being able to pay (bills),” Arias said.

Loan-to-Grant Recipients

Below is a partial list of Save Our Small Businesses award winners, as provided by the offices of the councilmembers.

(GV Wire/Alexis DeSha)

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email