Long Beach City Council moves forward with plans to provide financial relief to local businesses

The Long Beach City Council has agreed to move forward with a new plan to create a $5 million stimulus package aimed at helping local businesses struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a 8-to-0 vote, the council approved the Personal Services and Fitness Resiliency Fund Tuesday evening, which looks to help businesses, including barbershops, nail salons and gyms that have been facing financial difficulties since being forced to close or function at limited capacity under statewide measures and local health orders since March.

“We want to make sure that we have this program in place and ready to go the day we receive resources,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “This will give this industry, which is very large in Long Beach, an opportunity to get by.”

The approval of this plan comes just weeks after Garcia made an announcement via Twitter about his proposal to implement two new funds, amounting to $10 million in relief, to aid Long Beach businesses.

During its meeting last Tuesday, the council approved in a unanimous vote to create the first of the two $5 million funds, the Restaurant, Brewery and Bar Resiliency Fund, directed at helping local dining spots that have also been affected by COVID-19 mandates.

“Obviously our restaurants, bars and the industry are in great need of additional financial support,” Garcia said during last week’s meeting. “I’m very confident in the conversations I’m having with the Biden administration that there is going to be a strong relief package on its way, there may even be an interim package.”  

Earlier this year, Garcia was “instrumental” in securing $40 million in state and federal aid to support COVID-19 response efforts, which has been used for tenant assistance, funding of non-profit organizations helping with coronavirus-related issues and the implementation of safety measures at local businesses.

Newly elected Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who sponsored the bill alongside councilmembers Roberto Uranga and Al Austin, expressed his support for the item and thanked Garcia for “working with the administration in advance to try to secure this relief” that will help local residents and business owners.

Members of the public applauded the councilmembers for their efforts to provide economic relief to local businesses during tonight’s meeting, however, there were concerns about logistics, including how much money each business would be eligible for and how long it would take to receive that funding.

Long Beach resident Mike Murchison said during public comment that he felt concerned the $5 million Restaurant, Brewery and Bar Resiliency Fund would not be enough aid for the hundreds of restaurants struggling in Long Beach.

“If they all apply for funding, that’s only $12,500 each and that’s not going to cut it,” Murchison said. “These independent restaurants, to survive, to get through the next several months, they need about $50,000 to really make a difference.”

Murchison added that when applying for a grant, the process tends to take months.  

“It’s taking too long,” Murchison said. “The city needs to find a way to expedite that process to get the money into the hands of these independent restaurant owners, who basically have poured their lives into their restaurants and their businesses.”

Ashley Richardson, owner of 9Round Fitness, a kickboxing gym in Long Beach, said during public comment that her story is one that dozens of gyms in the area can relate to as she was forced to close her business early in the year, thus losing 85% of her monthly income.

Richardson closed her gym to over 100 members to adhere to statewide and local health orders, which led to the loss of most of her employees.

Once gyms were permitted to operate outdoors, businesses had to quickly adapt by purchasing all new equipment to maintain health orders, Richardson said.

Meanwhile, gyms must still pay rent, property taxes, insurance and business licensing fees “all for a space we can’t use,” she said. 

At this time, the $5 million in each fund will be considered a starting point as the amount of aid could be increased depending on how much relief is received from the federal government and the demand from businesses.

The Long Beach City Council is not expected to meet until 2021 with no set date yet.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Daily 49er newsletter