Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Donna DeBerry s...

Credit: City of San Diego

Above: Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Donna DeBerry speaks at a press conference on Aug. 31, 2020, about the $1 million in relief fund for black-owned businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic in San Diego.

The Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce announced Monday that a grant fund created to help Black-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19-related shutdowns has raised more than $1 million.

According to the chamber, nearly 200 businesses have received aid in the first round of funding from the Black Business Relief Grant Fund. Several additional rounds of distribution are anticipated to provide relief to some of the 1,000 businesses that applied.

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“I am very appreciative that the Black chamber has extended this grant to Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream,” said Averill Williams, owner of the ice cream shop. “Receiving this grant has contributed to our ability to continue to operate during these difficult times. And beyond just the financial help, the Black chamber equally extended access to counseling and additional business development resources that I see as significant to the survivability and overall growth to my business.”

Williams said every dollar helps keep his stores afloat.

“You are going to be dealing with a lot of different issues,” Williams said, “because the business or the sales are not what you expected them to be, or what you planned for them to be, or what they were in the past. You need all the help you can get across the board.”

More than 400 individuals and 37 corporate donors have contributed to the relief fund. Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and the San Diego City Council also allocated $500,000 in emergency relief funding to the effort under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act from the city’s Small Business Relief Fund.

Created in June, the Black Business Relief Grant Fund was created to offer relief to the thousands of Black-owned businesses in San Diego, many of which faced additional hurdles in unlocking state and federal financial resources.

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“Every penny from this fund gives more businesses the chance to stay open, pay their employees and survive this pandemic,” Faulconer said. “The road to building a successful business is hard enough even before COVID-19 devastated our economy, so we must continue to provide inclusive relief to a wide variety of small businesses and this fund speaks volumes about the widespread support San Diegans have for our Black-owned businesses.”

Data from the San Diego Association of Governments illustrated what local Black-owned businesses were experiencing, showing that Black and Hispanic populations were four times as likely to live in areas that have been impacted by COVID-19 and unemployment when compared to the white population, and twice as likely when compared to the Asian population.

“Today, we have one million reasons to celebrate this achievement and the need that will be met by this funding,” said Councilwoman Monica Montgomery. “As elected officials, we must do everything within our power to alleviate the burdens on Black-owned businesses to prevent more doors from shuttering permanently.”

Montgomery added that the relief fund is just the beginning of the aid needed for black-owned businesses.

“This Black Business Relief Fund is an answer to the pain of the people. It is a start but there is still a lot of work to do,” she said.

Grants have ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 and are administered by San Diego Grantmakers. Roughly 74% of recipients are women-owned companies and nearly 40% are childcare centers. Other recipients include a coffee shop, a wine shop, a sports fishing business, an ice cream shop and professional services companies.

“San Diego’s Black-owned businesses are a vibrant economic driver for the Black community and for the entire region,” said Donna DeBerry, president and CEO of the chamber. “The Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce launched this fund as a call to action and the response has been resounding.”

According to the chamber, priority has been given to sole proprietorship businesses whose net income was less than $100,000 in 2019 and have 10 or fewer employees.

Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream qualified as one of those businesses and Williams remains optimistic for the future of his company.

“We are going to survive this, we are going to get to the other end of it and we are going to come out bigger and better,” he said.

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