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Business Relief and Support

Economic Assistance for San Diego Businesses Affected by COVID-19

On March 25, 2020, the City of San Diego established a Small Business Relief Fund (SBRF) to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 retain employees and sustain continuity of operations. The original funding, mostly comprised of available federal funds already accessible by the City, to launch the program quickly and establish an application process to determine need. The response was overwhelming with approximately $10,500 applications received it was clear more financial assistance was needed. In addition to almost $700K in private donations received, the City has authorized an additional $12.8M in CARES Act funds on June 9, 2020 to continue to support businesses who applied for assistance during the original application period. Less restrictive criteria and broadened qualifications in addition to a new tiered structure will allow more applicants be supported. Financial assistance between $2,500 and $10,500 in grants will still be allocated to eligible small businesses on a first-come, first-served basis and 50% of the funding will be for areas that are in low to moderate income census tracts, Opportunity Zone, Promise Zone. 

Funds awarded will be based on availability, program guidelines, and the submission of all required information and supporting documentation proving financial hardship related to COVID-19. Funds are being administered by the City of San Diego’s Economic Development Department. 

To be eligible, businesses must meet the following minimum requirements: 

  • Business must be located within the City of San Diego 
  • Employ no more than 100 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees or less as of February 28, 2020, this can now include businesses that are sole proprietors, family owned, or home based.
  • Have a City of San Diego Business Tax Certificate as of April 15, 2020 
  • Provide documentation that shows the business has been operational for at least 6 months 
  • Provide proof of economic hardship due to COVID-19 
  • City of San Diego employees and family members are not eligible for these funds.
  • Not have engaged in any illegal activity per local, state or federal regulations, with federal regulations taking precedence over local or state regulations. 
  • One award per business owner.

The following businesses are not eligible to request or receive SBRF financial assistance: 

  • Lending and investment institutions 
  • Insurance companies 
  • Golf courses, racetracks or gambling facilities 
  • Nonprofit entities 
  • Chain stores

Clarifying differences between the previous criteria posted (regarding the original $6.1M funds): 

  • Businesses with zero employees now qualify.
  • Businesses with a valid Business Tax Certificate as of April 15, 2020 which is the day after the applications closed will qualify. 
  • Bankruptcy (personal or business) discharged by April 1, 2019 now eligible (which is 12 months, instead of 18 months)
  • Other funding sources and loans received do not preclude a business from receiving these funds (i.e. PPP, EIFL, SBA Loans, etc)
  • Business must be located in the City of San Diego AND owner can live outside the City of San Diego (but cannot live outside the County of San Diego)
  • Business owners that have already received assistance from the first phase of SBRF including the efforts underway with Cal Coast Cares through San Diego Grantmakers, are NOT eligible to receive additional funds. 

Grant funds can be used to support the cost of business interruption due to COVID-19 as a result of required closures, voluntary closures to promote physical distancing, or decreased customer demand, including:

  • Working capital
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Payroll expenses
  • Contract labor
  • Supplier payments
  • Rent, lease, or mortgage payment for real property used for business purposes
  • Rent, lease, or purchase payment for business property
  • Utility payments for business properties
  • Cost of critical business operations
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and/or sanitation supplies and equipment

New Tiered Structure for grant awards:

  • $2,500 for businesses with zero (0) employees (owner) and annual gross revenue from 2019 is less than $200,000
  • $5,000 for businesses with one (1) employee (not the owner) and annual gross revenue from 2019 is less than $500,000
  • $7,500 for businesses with five (5) or less employees and annual gross revenue from 2019 is less than $1,000,000
  • $10,000 for businesses with six (6) or more employees and annual gross revenue from 2019 is less than $3,000,000

All Promise Zone, Opportunity Zone and LMI Census Tract applicants will receive an additional $500.

Applicants that are eligible will be contacted by Economic Development Department staff and asked to provide backup documentation, including but not limited to:

  • IRS Form W-9
  • Recent Tax Returns
  • Bank Statements
  • Current Balance Sheet

Additional Economic Resources

The establishment of the SBRF is in addition to other steps the City is taking in consultation with--and at the direction of--County of San Diego public health officials to help people affected by and prevent the spread of the global pandemic known as COVID-19.

SDBC COVID19 Guide cover

On March 18, 2020, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer unveiled and outlined the City's economic relief package that reduces fees, provides certainty and offers support to local employers. (Read the full press release.)

“Businesses are following public health orders, and we recognize this has an impact. This relief effort is about restoring some balance to the current situation,” Mayor Faulconer said. “San Diego businesses are making a necessary sacrifice while bearing a tremendous burden as they comply with these orders. We’re taking aggressive action today to help businesses stay afloat and continue to pay as many employees as possible.”   

Businesses are advised to reach out to their nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has developed the Small Business Survival Resources Guide to help business owners navigate through the chaos COVID-19 is having on our communities.

SBDC can help with applying for relief, guiding you through available resources and assisting with cash flow concerns, supply-chain interruptions, workforce capacity, insurance coverage and more--all at no cost. Register for free SDBC one-on-one business counseling.

Additionally, please consider the following federal and state resources listed below. We will continue to update resources as they become available.


U.S. Federal Support

  • CARES Act (Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security Act) addresses the economic impact of COVID-19 19 and dedicates $350 billion towards small businesses. This federal stimulus act was signed into law on March 27, 2020 enhances the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and created the Paycheck Protection PlanPDF icon Learn more
    • An on-demand webinar from the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) details the EIDL and PPP, offering guidance on how to comply your EIDL application. Signup to watch the 30-minute webinar
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering business assistance to impacted businesses and providing guidance for employers to plan and respond to COVID-19. For questions on any of the programs offered by SBA, you can contact the SBA San Diego District Office at 619-557-7250.
    • Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program offers $7 billion in low-interest loans to businesses, renters and homeowners located in regions affected by declared disasters.
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is a direct loan from the US Federal Government. Any small business can apply, with very limited exclusions. Independent Contractors, freelancers, gig workers, home-based businesses and any other sole-proprietor can apply. Nonprofits can also apply. The loan is for working capital to pay your business operational expenses, not to expand your business. It can be used to pay an owner their draw or wage for their living expenses. Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties within 3 days of a successful application. Apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
    • Paycheck Protection Plan was created by the CARES Act to support COVID-19-impacted small business owners and their employees by providing loans, that can be forgiven, in support of payroll expenses, mortgage, or rent. This program became available on April 3, 2020. Here aPreparing Workplacesre some details:
      • Loans are from banks or other lenders. You should first reach out to your bank if they offer the program. Find a lender. Nonbank institutions such as PayPal, QuickBooks Capital, and Square have been approved as PPP lenders.
      • Small businesses or nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations in operation prior to February 15, 2020 and paid employees or paid independent contractors under 1099 are eligible. You are also eligible for a PPP loan if you are an individual who operates under a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor or eligible self-employed individual, you were in operation on February 15, 2020. To determine eligibility regarding SBA size standards go to https://www.sba.gov/size-standards.  
      • Loans amounts cannot exceed $10 million. Loan amounts are based on 2.5 times your average monthly payroll. Payroll is fully loaded, included payroll taxes, insurance, group-health, and retirement. Payroll in excess of $100,000 per employee is excluded, but the pay up to $100,000 for that employee is included. Forgiveness of the loan would be done on demonstrated payroll, rent, mortgage, or utility costs made by the small business between Feb. 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020.
    • Small Business Debt Relief will pay the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a) loans for a six-month period and of new 7(a) loans issued prior to Sept. 27, 2020.
    • SBA Express Bridge Loans enable small businesses with a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. These can be a term loan or used to bridge the gap while waiting for the determination on your application for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. These loans will be repaid in full or in part with proceeds from the EIDL loan.
  • The Federal Reserve created the Main Street Lending Program to offer up to $2.3 trillion in 4-year loans to companies employing up to 10,000 workers or with revenues of less than $2.5 billion. Principal and interest payments will be deferred for one year. Learn more.
  • Internal Revenue Services (IRS) is offering Federal Income Tax Extensions.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers interim guidance for businesses and employers to plan, prepare and respond to coronavirus.
  • Department of Labor OSHA has guidance on PDF icon Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

California State-Level Support

On April 2, the Governor issued new directives to provide relief for small businesses and workers displaced by COVID-19. Relief plans include allowing small business owners to defer sales and use tax payments for up to $50,000. Learn more.

On April 15, the Governor announced the April 20 launch of an Employment Development Department call center and expedited access to the Work Share program to avert layoffs. The Governor also announced $125 million in disaster relief assistance for working Californians. Learn more. 


San Diego Region Support

  • County of San Diego: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) information.
  • Jewish Community Foundation San Diego will offer relief to support to those out of work and vulnerable communities through its COVID-19 Emergency Fund

  • South County Economic Development Council is offering emergency 0% interest loans to restaurants in San Diego’s South County.

  • The San Diego Foundation is offering emergency grants to nonprofits in food security, rental and utility assistance, and income replacement or gap funding through its COVID-19 Community Response Fund

  • San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, a project of Alliance San Diego, will provide grants of up to $500 to immigrants in San Diego County who have lost all or part of their income due to COVID-19 through its Immigrant Relief Fund.
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership offers information and services that may assist employers who are forced to consider work stoppages, layoffs or furloughs. Also, SDWP has resources for impacted employees, including unemployment Insurance information, tax assistance, a work-sharing program to avoid layoffs, financial planning, remote career services and more. Access their career portal.
  • Minority Humanitarian Foundation launched the MHF Immigrant Relief Fund to provide grants of $250 for immigrants in San Diego County who have lost all or part of their income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • United Way of San Diego County will support low-wage workers and their families whose incomes have been negatively impacted during this time of uncertainty through the San Diego Worker Assistance Initiative.


Additional Support

California Scope

National Scope

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