Orange County Politicians Pushing for $2.6 Billion in Small Business, Nonprofit, Aid

January 7, 2021 Updated: January 7, 2021

IRVINE, Cali.—Local politicians are among those lobbying for the distribution of $2.6 billion in grants to pandemic-affected small businesses and nonprofit organizations through the Keep California Working Act.

The bill would establish the Keep California Working Grant Program and see the state earmark 10 percent of its projected surplus to California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate.

During a Jan. 6 press conference, Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) said the funds would be divided into up to six tiers, and provide between $10,000 and $75,000 grants to businesses and nonprofits.

The bill was introduced by Laguna Beach Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, alongside senators Borgeas and Anna Caballero (D-Coalinga). It unveiled new coalition support and legislative details of the act and was co-authored by 24 other state senators and assembly members, including Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel).

The bill includes an emergency clause that would make it effective immediately upon approval.

Qualifying businesses must have 100 employees or less.

Many small businesses are “hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” said Alejandro Chavez of the Salinas United Business Association, which represents more than 700 small businesses. It is currently working with businesses to help find ways to bring down their costs when profits are low.

Chavez referenced a Salinas nightclub that once made between $72,000 and $108,000 in monthly profit every month. It’s no longer turning a profit, and Chavez said the owners have just enough money to pay one part-time employee, rent, and supplies.

Lucy Dunn of the Orange County Business Council said she is thrilled to see so many businesses qualify for this bill.

“[Small businesses have] disproportionately been impacted financially by COVID. And those businesses—so many of them have already shuttered their doors,” Dunn said. “The little mom-and-pop karate studios. The little music education after school programs—they’re gone. And yet, these are our entrepreneurs, these are our innovators. These are the businesses upon which bigger businesses grow and develop.”

Bates, who co-authored the bill, said in a statement: “The Legislature must do more to help save local jobs and small businesses.

“We must help struggling workers and businesses in a way that is fiscally responsible. The Keep California Working Act does both and would be another essential lifeline for our economy.”

The bill’s proposal is still in the works, and Borgeas said its supporters will begin meeting with stakeholders and legislative leaders on Jan. 11.