small businesses

Minority- and Immigrant-Owned Businesses Struggle to Survive COVID-19

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Juan Pablo Sanchez's family came to San Diego from Mexico and started the Super Cocina restaurant 30 years ago.

While the City Heights restaurant has weathered many economic storms, its sales have been down about 70 percent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is just, you know, extraordinary what's going on," Sanchez said. "The ferocity and how quickly it affected us. It's incomparable to anything else."

Sanchez has applied for more than $100,000 in federal and local grants and loans to try to help his business survive, but he said he's worried that many of the small business owners in his ethnically diverse area won't be able to navigate the required paperwork to get help, too.

"The language barrier sometimes makes it harder for people to reach out and find resources," Sanchez said.

Erik Tilkemeier of the City Heights Community Development Corporation, a non-profit that helps small businesses in City Heights, said he has devoted all of his organization's efforts to help struggling business owners in the neighborhood survive COVID-19.

"There's also a technology barrier," Tilkemeier said. "A lot of our clients aren't technologically literate, and all of the applications are online. Nobody is doing any in-person or paper applications, so that's another challenge."

The city of San Diego has made approximately $6.5 million available to small businesses in a relief fund. Both Tilkemeier and Sanchez said they hope that when the economy reopens, the diversity that City Heights is known for can be retained.

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