Mission Valley Mall is empty
Westfield Mission Valley mall is empty except for a few restaurants. Photo by Chris Stone

County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a $5 million loan program to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Proposed by Supervisors Jim Desmond and Dianne Jacob, the initiative will allow businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county with 50 employees or less to apply for loans of up to $50,000 each.

The money is coming from the county’s general fund, and qualifying businesses will have up to five years, or 60 months, to repay the loan.

A loan may give employers “some time to get on their feet and keep employees on the job,” Jacob said before the vote. “Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and they’re in a world of hurt right now.”

Desmond, who also serves as board vice-chairman, said the county wants “to make sure we offer the resources so that businesses can get up and running shortly.”

Desmond said he’s heard “from hundreds of business owners who are eager to get back to work and willing to follow safety protocols.”

The San Diego Foundation will oversee the program. According to information supplied by the county, the foundation will return at least 95% on defaulted loans and 100% on loans that are paid off no later than 30 months after the county contribution is distributed.

The foundation will also ensure that all loans funded are covered by the state’s Small Business Loan Guarantee Program or a comparable program.

Mark Stuart, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, said the $5 million contribution will allow his organization to reach more areas of the county.

Stuart said the foundation can “begin immediately to work on details and the application process” and “can be ready to reach out to those businesses and nonprofits.”

Board Chairman Greg Cox commended Desmond and Jacob for their loan proposal, which features a modest interest rate that will “hopefully tide businesses over until things return to normal.”

— City News Service