By 2060, Latinas will make up 27 percent of women in the U.S. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the disproportionate impact on the Latinx community becomes more clear. While many parts of the Latina community are impacted, Latina business owners are facing unique barriers to keeping their businesses going through the pandemic. “We also have to keep thinking about long-term planning,” says Cristina Pacheco, owner of FRCE, LLC, a production and experience design company that ties social justice with civic engagement. “These initial government assistance opportunities are helpful, but most industries have a long road ahead to ‘normalcy.’ It’s definitely a time for creativity, but us women have always been inventive.”
According to a February 2020 Cal Matters report, Latinx small businesses in the U.S. employ three million workers and contribute $500 billion in sales to the U.S. economy. These contributions remain despite facing racist systems that have meant higher loan rates and lower wages. The report explains that denial of loans at major banks has led Latinos to borrow from small banks and when that fails, family and friends have provided seed money.
A March 2020 Stanford survey found that 86% of Latinx small business owners reported that their businesses had already suffered a negative impact from COVID-19. Additionally, 23% of Latinx small business owners had already applied to SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans and 33% of those surveyed stated that they needed more information in order to seek relief. While the federal government approved $650 billion in relief for small business owners under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), many small business owners are still waiting for their funds. A recent article stated that 90% of women and minority owned businesses missed out on PPP.
Three Latina business owners shared their experiences with the Luz Collective on applying for relief funds, demonstrating the various challenges to access the support necessary to keep their businesses going through this pandemic.
Laura Y. Gonzalez says she is one of the 90% to miss out on PPP even though she applied. Gonzalez, co-owner of A.N.R. Overhead Doors Inc. in Whittier, California, applied to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and PPP. While her business was approved for some funding from the EIDL, they were denied the PPP. “The PPP on the one hand was not smooth, it was rather frustrating and misleading,” says Gonzalez. “Both the EIDL and the PPP were promoted as readily available. The EIDL took only a few days to take applications via the SBA website. For the PPP you could only apply with your banking institution. Throughout the month of April banks were not taking applications from businesses who do not do their banking with them.”
Cristina Pacheco applied to both the EIDL and PPP. Her business was awarded some funds from both. She says that overall the process took about three weeks, but along the way she lacked information and clarity for both applications. “The rules are changing constantly and the burden of responsibility to prove loan forgiveness falls on us,” she explains. “I’ve found my network of colleagues the most helpful. We’ve shared articles with each other and stayed close about the progress of our loan requests. Also, there are a number of women-centered grants available. Apply for everything you can both from the government and private sources.”
Belinda De La Libertad, who owns A-Z Techs, an information technology firm, did receive some relief funding under the PPP and EIDL that will allow her to support her workers at least until June 30th. “I’m able to continue employing Latina heads of household, plus make sure we can cover recurring expenses so that my business credit remains in great shape after the crisis. For my employees, paying the rent and putting food on the table is what matters most.”