SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Small businesses and manufacturers affected by the pandemic in San Jose will soon receive some much-needed support from the city, thanks to a $1.17 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). 

The EDA recently announced the approval of the City of San Jose’s grant application, which aims to provide more support to local small businesses and manufacturers in underserved areas hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s really gratifying to see the federal government basically ratify our ideas about small business support and the importance of assisting our hardest-hit communities,” said Nathan Donato-Weinstein, a business development officer for San Jose’s Office of Economic Development.

“You never know when you apply for a federal grant, there’s literally hundreds of other cities and counties competing for a limited amount of funding, and in this case about $1.5 billion was placed in the CARES Act for these types of grants.”

The City’s Office of Economic Development (OED) will manage the grant and will work to provide several support activities. 

The city will also work in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association and Manufacture: San Jose, to use a combined total of close to $1.2 million over the next two years to help build a stronger business climate for businesses that have been severely impacted by the pandemic. 

“The money is really critical for us, assisting small businesses is the lifeline of the city in so many different ways, small businesses provide a tremendous amount of jobs in the city,” said Nanci Klein, director of the Office for San Jose’s Office of Economic Development. 

“The ability to get this $1.17 million really is targeted to those agencies who help small business, so that we’re trying to do a couple of different important things here, one is strengthen the local network both in terms of building incapacity for those people who most directly work with affected businesses,” Klein added.

“And two it’s so important to do that in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way.”

According to the city, manufacturing is the city’s largest job sector and has been hit hard by COVID-19, with more than 10,000 jobs lost regionally through the end of 2020. 

The grant will provide outreach and workforce support to the manufacturing sector through nonprofit Manufacture: San Jose. 

Manufacture: San Jose will assist the industry’s recovery and connect disadvantaged communities and displaced workers with opportunities for economic advancement through good-paying manufacturing jobs in San Jose.  

“Over the course of the pandemic the manufacturing sector contracted by about 10,000 jobs,” said Michael Erickson, regional director for Manufacture: San Jose.

“With the CARES Act funding, this will allow us to really focus on the areas that have been impacted most like the Monterey Road corridor, like East San Jose, Alum Rock, and Berryessa.”

The program will focus most of its resources for Downtown, Central, and East San Jose, communities that have experienced higher COVID-19 infection rates than the rest of the city. 

Technical assistance will also be provided to providers to help businesses and business networks in hard-hit commercial neighborhoods. 

The OED says the grant will allow them to “scale up” emerging neighborhood business associations and provide assistance with access to capital, business transformation, safe operations, digital marketing, and more. 

“One caveat to this federal grant program is that we are not allowed to use this money to give grants to small businesses themselves,” said Donato-Weinstein. 

“So what we have to do is find another way to support small businesses through, so what our program really what it’s about is supporting organizations that in turn support businesses.”

Through a partnership with the SJDA, mentorship will be provided to emerging business organizations and enhanced downtown business outreach. 

SJDA will provide support to existing and emerging business groups to better serve their communities, now and after the pandemic is over. 

“We know that there are other communities in San Jose that could really use an organization like that with that kind of capability, with staff that is out seven days a week on the ground,” said Donato-Weinstein. 

“So what we can do with some of this funding is help some of those emerging business groups in San Jose in our hardest-hit neighborhoods really mature.”