SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Small businesses in East San Jose are getting some much-needed financial assistance with the help of grassroots efforts.

After a month of fundraising, San Jose Planning Commission Vice Chair Rolando A. Bonilla and Mimi Hernandez, Executive Director for Business Circle Latinx provided grants to small business owners on Thursday. 

“From the very beginning of this fund I’ve said it’s going to take our community to save our community,” said Bonilla. 

“And the fact of the matter is the kindness and generosity of San Jose residents from throughout the city, not just East San Jose, has been amazing, because of their kindness and generosity we are in a place today where we are actually now able to give our grants.”

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses have been impacted through shelter-in-place orders, social distancing protocols, and lack of support from local and state governments. 

The first recipients of the East San Jose COVID Relief Fund are located in zip code 95116, with a cumulative case count of over 6,500 — both say the grants are a huge relief for their business and will be used to pay for rent and other expenses. 

“From the start of COVID until now business has been very slow and especially at my store where I lost more than fifty percent of my clients,” said Tu Pham owner of Aplus Cleaners located on Alum Rock Avenue. 

In East San Jose, a predominantly Latino and Vietnamese community that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Latinos make up more than 50% of Santa Clara County’s total COVID cases, the most among any ethnic group. 

“Our role in this community is to provide resources, technical assistance, and training to small businesses,” said Hernandez, who along with other local business leaders assist immigrant business owners in Santa Clara County. 

“The purpose of this fund is not just about the monetary piece where our businesses and our nonprofits in East San Jose are able to receive some financial assistance to help them keep going but it really is a lifeline.”

For Alicia Infante, she tells KRON4 News operating her three small businesses selling Boost Mobile cell phone service, international money orders, and clothing all out of one central location has been difficult over the last year. 

Infante says at the beginning of the pandemic she was forced to close for several months and as rent began to pile up and no steady stream of customers, she taught herself a new trade in an effort to keep her other businesses open. 

 “After a few months I was thinking what I am going to do, what will happen to my business, I have to do something else because I cannot keep waiting or until when this situation will end or when I am going to sell some clothes or shoes, which is what I sell,” said Infante. 

“I started learning more about flowers, and I started this new business that is the sale of flower arrangements and with that, thank God I have been able to take care of myself a bit.”

To date, the money raised for the grants have been through community contributions. 

Despite still recovering from COVID himself, Bonilla continues to call upon local government and larger businesses to help East San Jose small businesses get through the ongoing pandemic. 

“What we need right now is a commitment from the larger business community, from the city of San Jose, from the County of Santa Clara to inject immediate capital into businesses in East San Jose.”

“I don’t think people realize it’s not just store closures were fighting, if these businesses close the change is generational, it’s not like we’re going to be able to restart the economy with these vacancies,” Bonilla added. 

“Quite the contrary, we’re going to be in a place where the negative impacts of COVIDare not only irreparable on the human side, I know I lived through it, but irreparable on the economic sice if we don’t do anything about that now.”