Masked man sits outside closed business

Minority small-business owners and community lenders, some of whom described how they were surviving the COVID-19 pandemic in our recent story series, joined us for a Connecting Communities virtual event on April 8, 2021. Our guests discussed where they are now, what they need going forward, and who can and should help. We also explored what’s at stake for us all when small businesses in underserved areas—and the community development financial institutions and minority depository institutions that support them—struggle. Watch the full event below.

Speakers:

  • Suzanne Anarde, CEO, Rural Community Assistance Corporation
  • Elmy Bermejo, owner, Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
  • John Chin, executive director, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
  • Gary R. Woods, former chairman, Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Alfreda Norman, senior vice president, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
  • Matuschka Lindo Briggs, director, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (moderator)

Connecting Communities A Year of Crisis, and Now What? Where Our Main Streets Go from Here (video, 1:26:14).

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TRANSCRIPT


Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Good afternoon and welcome to Connecting Communities. Today’s webinar is A Year of Crisis, and Now What? Where Our Main Streets Go From Here. On slide two, I would now like to take the time to introduce our speakers for today. Alfreda Norman, Senior Vice President from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Suzanne Anarde, CEO of Rural Community Assistance Corporation; Elmy Bermejo, owner of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant; John Chin, Executive Director at Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation; Gary Woods, former Chairman of the Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce; and I’m Matuschka Lindo Briggs, Director of Special Projects and Strategic Support for the Community Development Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and I will serve as your moderator for our session today.

Let’s move to slide three, where we can take care of a few housekeeping items before we get started. For the best webinar experience, we recommend you use the web stream to consume this live video event through your computer speakers. If you have technical issues, you’re welcome to dial into the phone number posted on the player page. But the video will not sync perfectly with the phone audio.

This session will be recorded and the presentation will be available on our Connecting Communities website. Also, in connection with the session, you can find a variety of additional resources on today’s topic available at fedcommunities.org.

We will be taking audience questions during the event and we’d love to hear from you. To submit a question, use the Ask Question button located on the webinar player page. Or you can email us at communities@stls.frb.org. As we move to slide four, I need to go over our legal notice and disclaimer since this is a Fed webinar, which is that the opinions and statements expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and are intended only for informational purposes. They do not reflect official positions of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Finally, our mission on slide five. The mission of the Federal Reserve’s Community Development function is to promote economic growth and financial stability for low- to moderate-income individuals and communities. You can look at the map to see where your community development team is located. Our work is done through a range of activities from conducting research and identifying emerging issues, to developing resources and sharing ideas, and lastly, fostering collaboration and building partnerships.

Before I hand the reins over, we would like to have our audience answer a polling question. Let’s get that polling question up there. You should see it here in just a second. The first question is going to be on there and all you have to do is click on it, and here we go. Has the pandemic influenced you to visit small businesses more often? You can click yes or no. We’ll give you all about 20 seconds here to answer that question.

All righty, I think we have quite a bit coming in here. Yes or no, and then don’t forget to hit Submit as well. Okay, Dave, do you want to go ahead and show those results? Wow. 81 percent, that’s great. Eighty-one percent say yes, that the pandemic has influenced them to visit small businesses more often. That’s great to hear, and I’m sure our panelists are excited to hear that. I would now like to turn the presentation over to Alfreda Norman from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Alfreda, the floor is yours.

Alfreda Norman

Great. Thank you, Matuschka, happy to be part of the Connecting Communities event. At the Dallas Fed, I have responsibilities for the Bank’s communications and public outreach. This includes our community development function. The community development function plays an integral role, as Matuschka just said, in promoting economic growth and financial stability for low- and moderate-income communities and individuals.

CD staff conduct research, share information and resources, and work with community partners to address economic challenges and opportunities. The Fed is engaged in this work because an inclusive economy is good for the nation. If we have stable communities, we’ll have stable regions and a more robust economy overall.

We know most folks, including community development professionals, are unaware of the Dallas Fed or the 12 Reserve Banks’ work in underserved communities across the nation. So, we’ve launched our Fed Communities initiative to amplify this work, and to get professionals engaged in any facet of community development, easy access to the Fed’s research, data, tools, and expertise. You can find out more at fedcommunities.org. Explore what’s there, meet some of our experts, and sign up to see what comes next. In fact, our stories of resiliency on fedcommunities.org is what led us to our event today.

We can all likely remember the specific date a year ago when life changed in a dramatic fashion. You began working remotely or you had to work with personal protective equipment in order to be safe. Your service organization saw requests for help skyrocket. Your kids’ school began doing remote learning. Toilet paper was rationed by grocery stores. Everyone began wearing masks and life as we knew it was altered in ways that no one imagined.

Along with these challenges, pain, and devastating life, health and economic impacts on people across the world. Here in the United States, we saw a disproportionately larger impact of black and Hispanic people, a higher death toll from COVID-19, greater exposure to the disease through public facing essential service roles, including hospital, transit, and food production professions. And more jobs were lost among lower-paying service roles, roles which are historically filled by Black, brown, and immigrant workers.

The pandemic also wrought life-altering impacts to minority owned small businesses. We all know this progression from the pandemic’s first six months in the United States. Non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors. Not long after many were allowed to reopen under strict new operating requirements; requirements that can prove very costly to business owners.

In some states, these businesses were forced to shut a second time. Many small businesses never reopened. Among Black and small business owners, 40 percent closed their doors for good. Last fall, the Fed conducted its annual Small Business Credit Survey. This survey gathers input from small business owners across the United States on their experiences accessing credit. A new report based on this data comes out April 15th, with findings on firms owned by people of color. Among other key findings, the researchers identified these takeaways; firms owned by people of color, both small employer firms and sole proprietors, are most likely to experience operational and financial challenges stemming from the pandemic.

Sixty-seven percent of Asian and Black-owned firms reported reducing their operations, followed by 63 percent of Hispanic-owned firms, and 54 percent of white owned firms. Firms owned by people of color, and particularly Black-owned firms were less likely to receive all of the PPP funding that they requested. And finally, the survey found that firms owned by people of color tend to have weaker banking relationships, experience worse outcomes on credit applications, and are more reliant on personal funds.

At a time when everyone was struggling, where did minority small business owners turn for help? There is an arm of the financial services industry that plays a significant, outsized role in getting capital to underserved areas. Perhaps you know them well. Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, are nonprofit, mission-driven, financial service firms supported by the US Treasury. They provide loans and grants to residents, nonprofits, and small businesses operating in low and moderate income areas, rural areas, and majority minority communities.

Like CDFIs, Minority Depository Institutions, or MDIs, are also critical conduits of loans and financial services in these communities. Together, they account for less than 2 percent of the capital that support small businesses nationwide. Yet, in the past year, these organizations were the critical lifeline for many minority small business owners.

Today, you’ll hear directly from a small business owner and organizations that support minority businesses. Their stories are featured on fedcommunities.org. Today, we’ll get an update on how they’re faring and what they need going forward in order to survive and thrive. We’ll start with a short video, to hear from our panelists, and then we’ll move into our discussion, and of course, we’ll leave plenty of time for you and your questions. Thanks again for joining us. Let’s take a look at this video.

video starts

Suzanne Anarde

I was watching the news that evening, and they announced that the Sacramento Kings game had been stopped. I knew at that moment that COVID would be life altering for RCAC, our communities, nation and moral.

Gary R. Woods

The first thing I saw was when the death rates due to COVID-19 infection in America had surpassed some of the lesser developed countries. Whole industries began to shut down, and as a result of it, we saw a significant spike in unemployment, and we saw small businesses begin to decline.

John Chin

What really, really tugs at my heartstrings is those people that we serve in our community, those who have experienced death, and health impacts due to the COVID-19 virus. We’re talking to small business owners who make a living and livelihood from the business and use those revenues to support themselves and their families.

Gary R. Woods

Being able to see how communities have suffered, also recognizing and seeing that there still are some issues with institutional racism.

Suzanne Anarde

Rural and Native communities are often late to experience economic and health crises when there’s a disaster or when there’s obviously a pandemic. They also face major challenges and hurdles for recovery, and it often takes longer.

John Chin

There will be less face-to-face, although we know we have to go back to face-to-face services. There will be a blend of face-to-face and virtual services. It has forced us to become more tech savvy. But most importantly, the impact is going to be in economics, the economics of people’s lives.

Gary R. Woods

The pandemic has revealed to a lot of small business owners like myself, and also small business owners that I work with in my role with the Chamber, the need for innovation, the need for diversity in terms of delivery of services.

Suzanne Anarde

Find your compass, your baseline. What do you want to be able to say you accomplished at the end of this journey? Be flexible, things are going to happen slow. Things open, they close. The best defense is a good offense. Don’t wait for trouble to travel the whole way.

John Chin

No playbook, no operating manual can prepare you for such an event. We have to rely on our gut instincts. We have to rely on our experience to guide us through this and be an organization that’s here to serve our constituents in the best way that we can.

video ends

Alfreda Norman

Let’s meet our panelists. Let’s start with you, Suzanne. Suzanne Anarde, if you could turn your camera on. Suzanne is the CEO of Rural Community Assistance Corporation, a CDFI based in West Sacramento, California. During the pandemic, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation was a lifeline for small business owners across 13 western states. Suzanne, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about your work.

Suzanne Anarde

Can you hear me?

Alfreda Norman

Now, we can hear you.

Suzanne Anarde

Sorry about that. RCAC is a regional CDFI. We serve the rural West, 13 western states including Alaska and Hawaii. We are a training and technical assistance organization. We do water and wastewater in small rural communities. We have a building real economies model. We also are very involved in housing, and then we have our core CDFI lending arm. We have about $190 million in our portfolio of CDFI loans.

During the pandemic, we are a training organization, so, we immediately pivoted to virtual trainings. We do nearly 500 of those a year, which was a big pivot for us, but which also increased our reach, which was interesting. We raised $26.5 million and 0 percent capital so that we could support a PPP lending program. We developed foreclosure and eviction prevention trainings, also PPE usage trainings for our small water and wastewater operators, and then we also developed a training curriculum for PPP borrowers so that they could maximize the forgiveness on their PPP loans, so they instantly got a loan, they also got training on how to maximize that.

Alfreda Norman

Thank you, Suzanne, I now understand what it means to be a lifeline to many, many organizations in your part of the country. Thanks so much. Next, I’m going to ask for Elmy, if you could turn your camera on. Elmy Bermejo is the owner of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant based in San Francisco. Elmy, tell us about your restaurant and how were you impacted during COVID.

Elmy Bermejo

Thank you, Alfreda, for this opportunity. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant is located in San Francisco and is family owned. My parents started it55 years ago. And to be clear, my mom is the technical owner of Tommy’s. We all work for her. She’s 86 years young and still going strong. It is a restaurant that is not in a typical area where you would think most Mexican restaurants operate, because most people would say, “Well, how can you not be in the Mission District in San Francisco?” My dad had to say, he goes, “Why am I going to sell tacos to Mexicans? I want to explore new markets.”

We’re in an area with our Russian neighbors, our Asian Pacific Islander neighbors, teaching the world about tequila. We are recognized for our Tommy’s Margarita, and the restaurant has gotten some awards for the bar, for the tequila that was developed, rather the Margarita. We have very many loyal customers, and we’re also a neighborhood place where lots of people come with their families. People have come when they were dating, now they’re bringing their kids, now they’re bringing their friends. It’s a sense of community.

When the pandemic hit, it was like shutting your community center down, in a way, because a lot of people would just come there.We do know most people’s names, we know their stories, and that’s what a neighborhood place is, that also has a global following. As a result of that, we had to cut hours, we had to… All of a sudden you went from being in the hospitality industry to saying to people, stand back, six feet apart, wear your mask, and being more of a police officer person or enforcement individual than hospitality.

I see those changes that are happening. That impacted us. Our sales plummeted. We generally were doing on a slow day, maybe $3,500 a day to $7,000 or more. Cinco de Mayo is our big day, and of course, we didn’t have that, and it went to some days, $335 a day. So, you have to figure out what are you going to do to stay afloat, and how are you going to worry about the people who work there who have families to feed as well?

Alfreda Norman

Wow. Well, I understand that you went to your bank to get a little bit of assistance, maybe to no avail. But you did go to a minority deposit institution. You got a PPP loan.

Elmy Bermejo

Yes, we did. We were with a very big bank for many, many, many years, and you would assume that, oh, I’ve been a good customer, I’ve made my payments on time, done everything you’re supposed to do to demonstrate you’re a good customer and should be trusted. We were told, “Just go to the website.” My mom and my family, this is where I stepped in, is that they weren’t doing online banking. And through a good friend, I was lamenting the fact that oh, I had no idea that this would be the case.

He talked to me about East West Bank, and I called them, they could have not been more helpful. This friend of mine connected me, and they made the process very easy and user friendly, and basically held our hand through the process. That was… I really don’t know where we would be without that, honestly.

Alfreda Norman

Well, thanks, Elmy. I’ve got the restaurant on my list and when I’m in San Francisco next, I’m going to go.

Elmy Bermejo

First margarita on me.

Alfreda Norman

All right. We’ve heard from Suzanne, and we’re going to hear more from her about CDFIs, and then we’ve heard from Elmy, and fortunately she was able to get some help from a minority deposit institution. More to come on on that. Thank you, Elmy. Next up, John, if you could turn your camera on. Hi, John. John Chin is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, a nonprofit that supports residents and businesses in a 25 block service area of Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Tell us a little bit about PCD, and what happened when COVID struck?

John Chin

When COVID struck, it was almost like someone shut off the waterfall stick to the flow of cash or money. As I was listening to Elmy, I thought she was talking about the businesses in Chinatown here in Philadelphia, because many of the businesses experienced the same challenges that she was describing. Our organization, we’re a nonprofit. We’ve been here 54 years in Chinatown. I would say that most of our work focuses on serving residents and their social service issues, more than 50 percent.

But the day the government shutdown occurred in March of 2020, we found ourselves shut down. So, how would we serve the commercial businesses and the residents in our community, which numbers about 8,000 residents and over 300 businesses in our Chinatown? Well, we quickly realized that we had to pivot our operations. We had to go onto the internet, online, and teach ourselves how to become social media savvy.

We understood that there would be a deluge of pleas for help coming to our organization, from the small businesses, as well as the unemployed workers that were just shut out from work because everyone closed. What we did is we created workshops online. Our strategy was, let’s give information to those who we think can help themselves. Basically, a do it yourself approach, and that would alleviate a lot of those one-on-one cases that we would have to handle directly, and that worked really well.

As information came out from the city government on the pandemic, within 24 hours, we translated everything into Chinese, because the government didn’t have that capacity at that time. We thought that was important. All the work that we did, the webinars, the flyers, the social media posts, everything was done bilingually. The challenge in our community is not only do we have Chinese language, but we have Chinese Mandarin, and Chinese Cantonese as the primary languages. All of our staff were reassigned and given new assignments, and the focus was to triage all the crisis that our small businesses were experiencing.

That’s how we approached the pandemic. I think our upfront strategic organizational restructuring really helped us to better serve the businesses.

Alfreda Norman

Wow, thank you for sharing that. I can’t wait to learn a little bit more in just a second and dig a little bit deeper into that. Thanks, John, for giving us a little bit of an idea about what your organization did. Finally, let’s ask Gary to turn on his camera. Gary Woods, former Chairman of the Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce. Gary, I went on the website to look up the Chamber and I liked what I was reading about your motto, which is you stand for equal opportunities, and equitable outcomes for business owners of all backgrounds. Particularly you’re the Black Chamber of Commerce so I know that you’re very much concerned with the African American businesses. Tell us a little bit about what happened in Oklahoma City and how you all supported businesses during the pandemic when the pandemic struck last March.

Gary R. Woods

First of all, Alfreda, really appreciate you highlighting the fact that, we support all businesses of various backgrounds, even though we’re the Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce. Anyone who has an interest in doing business or has an interest in investing in the African American community, be it Black or brown, we like to always say that we love everyone. We are supporting anyone who’s really wanting the next step in empowerment.

When the pandemic struck our community and then struck our neighbors, the first thing that came to my mind and to my board’s mind at that time was, how are we going to help and what network do we have from a banking/PPP perspective, to where we could provide some guidance and direction to those who were seeking information?

At the same time, like some of the other speakers on the panel, we had to shut down our own office space and had to also begin to work remotely and provide that support. We immediately begin developing a network of lenders who were participating in the program. Needless to say, there were also a number of lenders who had not done anything in support of the PPP program, and it almost seemed as if they didn’t have an interest. But we immediately began to start talking to our membership, as well as those who were seeking information about thinking differently, doing things differently as it relates to their business, as it relates to diversifying, and that also too, reevaluating their corporate structure in terms of how they set up or establish their business, as well as banking relationships.

That was just so vital, because, as you said earlier, people had relationships with a bank, but that bank wasn’t necessarily interested in administering the PPP program, so they had to scramble and find other lending institutions who were willing to help them. We had our hands full in trying to help support, as well as to get our membership to think differently, and also forge through that anxiety of not having relationships with lending institutions, and have them aggressively seek out those relationships.

Alfreda Norman

Wow. Thank you, Gary, and I got a few follow up questions to that in just a minute. I’m going to ask all the panelists to turn your cameras on and join us. This is the fun part. Let’s have a conversation, I’ve got some questions teed up, and I hope our audiences got some as well. I think they’re coming in and feel free to put your questions in and be ready at the end of our time to talk even more broadly with our… I’m going to ask this of all of you, do you see light at the end of the tunnel in all of this? Or do you feel like we’re still pretty much in a nightmare?

John Chin

Thanks. I’m going to start and answer this question. The answer is yes. I think early on during the pandemic, at the beginning and even late last year, there was a lot of uncertainty for small businesses. In Philadelphia, we follow the health department’s regulations and criteria, and there were some starts and stops. Just when businesses thought, and the health department tried to reopen, all of a sudden the surge in the pandemic, the surge in COVID rose, and then businesses quickly closed.

This uncertainty caused a lot of expenses for small businesses investing in reopening. But here we are, vaccinations are going and I think businesses are feeling more confident, and we’re seeing a lot more pedestrian activity on the streets in Chinatown and throughout Philadelphia.

I think with the certainty, businesses are better able to plan for business reopening, but also plan for the financial needs. That’s always been the challenge is, where would businesses get their funds from to stay open, and to reopen?

Alfreda Norman

Suzanne, I’m wondering, what are you thinking?

Suzanne Anarde

I think, one thing that happens in rural and Indigenous communities, is, a lot of times if there’s a disaster or a pandemic, the impact is delayed. But it’s also extended, because the resources take longer to get there. Often, this is a point where scale really works against us, because there’s only a few small businesses and if they’re not reopening from a point of strength, then they’re not capitalizing the rest of that rural community.

I think we are in the middle. One of the things about PPP lending, this most recent round, a lot of folks elected not to loan PPP to new borrowers. We are accepting new borrowers, and one of the reasons is there was a lot of fear, mistrust, misunderstanding about taking on additional debt during this time, particularly in rural communities. They’re not about debt. So, they passed on the first few opportunities, but now it’s been so long and they’re in dire straits. So, we are taking new borrowers in the PPP realm to help keep them alive, as we see what the future brings. I think we are cautiously optimistic, but again, there’s always a delayed reaction and response and recovery in rural and Indigenous communities.

Alfreda Norman

Elmy, do you see light at the end of the tunnel, or are you still in darkness?

Elmy Bermejo

I do see light at the end of the tunnel, especially as more and more folks get vaccinated. At Tommy’s, we made a decision that, when San Francisco said, okay, you can start opening at 25 percent, and we waited. We just opened 25 percent last night because we wanted everybody in the staff to be vaccinated, because a lot of people, you only see what you see in your own bubble, and people would walk in, ‘I’m vaccinated’ and walk in without a mask.

Again, we’re saying, well, you have been, but not everybody has been. I do see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think we still have to be cautiously optimistic. I know a restaurant that is a few blocks from Tommy’s where they’re going to wait 60 days. They said, “we don’t want it to be closed down again” in the up and down in our businesses.

People are watching, and small businesses, we’re talking to each other about how it’s going and helping each other out, about what we see and how we continue to help one another. But I think that if more people get vaccinated, and understand that they have to continue to wear a mask, and practice physical distancing, and be a little bit mindful of your neighbor, I think that the economy is going to pick up a lot more, and it’ll be really great for small businesses.

What I also find is that people are very supportive of those ideas, because I thought, oh, they’re going to just say, why do I have to wear a mask? But they also want us to stay open, and we’ve had customers who come and say, “I just came to get a couple of things, I want to make sure you’re still open.” That’s very heartwarming to see that the community, or people who are used to coming to Tommy’s want us to be open. They want to see small businesses thrive and they’re willing to do what it takes to make sure that, that happens, and that’s very positive.

Alfreda Norman

Gary, what are you thinking in your neck of the woods, how is it feeling?

Gary R. Woods

I do see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m encouraged by it, because as a community, as a nation, we’ve learned to adjust and grow through the pandemic and learn how to operate. It’s forced us, as a nation and as a community to expand and take on new skill sets and look at our businesses differently. However, there’s two sides to that coin. When you think about what happened initially, and when you think about the types of businesses that are the most vulnerable, those that actually exist on a discretionary incomes of other citizens in the community, some of them were the most vulnerable and hardest hit.

As a result of it, as Elmy was saying, some people will come by just to see if the business is still open, and that’s a very, very real thing, because so many of them closed their doors, and they’re not reopening. I think that, that is the other side of the coin, because also too, there’s a race against the clock, in terms of how long can we survive without having the needed support, to keep the doors open.

The pandemic didn’t hit every business at the same time, in the same way. There were different waves that hit businesses differently. If you didn’t have the cash reserves, or a line of credit, or if you’re in process of a PPP loan, as an example, with a lending institution, and it’s delayed, you still have obligations and bills and things of that nature that are stacking up. So, you have to start making crucial business decisions as to how long can I withstand this as a business owner?

Then when you project that out to how that impacts the community, again, that other side of the coin is not always pretty. It leaves behind a trail of things that have to be cleaned up as we try to continue to push towards that light at the end of the tunnel.

Alfreda Norman

Yeah. Well, I’m switching metaphors and I’m going to be talking, I think we all agree that we’re in the last mile, to this thing called post or after COVID. I’m wondering, Elmy, as a small business owner, what do you need now, and who can or should provide assistance or help?

Elmy Bermejo

Well, I think that there’s also, love what Gary and John are talking about in terms of assisting, and also Suzanne, because I think there’s also a lot of… Now, I think small businesses need to educate themselves so that we don’t find ourselves in the same position. What did we learn from this? How do we strengthen those relationships with lending institutions, knowing about how organizations work?

When my dad started Tommy’s, and there was a chamber of commerce, I found out he was one of the founders of the Greater Geary Merchant’s Association, and I said he was, he wasn’t really a joiner, but they said that he said, “You need help, I’ll give you a little money, but I don’t attend meetings. I got to run my business.” I think we have to balance that. How do we make sure that folks are learning about tools, and how to stay relevant in a way and also continue thriving as a small business owner, while informing ourselves about other services and other products that can be helpful?

I think also, very lucky that in San Francisco, at Tommy’s, we have very loyal folks, loyal followers, and that has been very helpful. I think also the patience that you need to move forward about how do we navigate this pandemic, because it hasn’t really gone away. It’s balancing all of these different things, to continue to move forward and to thrive.

Alfreda Norman

Good advice there. I’m wondering, Gary, John, and Suzanne, from your vantage point, what do small businesses and entrepreneurs need now and who should or can provide it?

Suzanne Anarde

One of the things that we incorporated over this period of time is we have a building rural economies for entrepreneurs and small communities, but we added business coaching. The business coaching role has really blossomed. Not only are we working with our entrepreneurs that we were working with previously, but the one fund is accessing coaching for our borrowers through our CDFI. And we also developed what we call the Relief Fund. It’s a grant funded, reemerging loan fund, that can be creative and patient capital to help folks reemerge into their markets from a place of strength versus weak.

With that comes business coaching. It’s an average of $25,000 of loan money, coupled with the business coaching. We find that a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs, much like my colleagues here have talked about, the open, close, spend money, the bills keep coming and everything’s delayed or revenues not coming in.

We have two coaching sessions, so that our borrowers for that fund, and those business owners can think long term, can think past the alligators that are right at their door, but think how can I best invest these resources to help me sustain and re-emerge from the crisis? I think that’s a really important thing to provide, too. They are traumatized. It’s been a really difficult road for them. So, providing them with that guidance, I think is critical.

I also think we have to start thinking about that lost revenue is not coming back. So, providing grant and blends of funding has to happen, and we need partners to do that. The foundations have been great, some of the banks have been great, but at the end of the day, that revenue is never coming back, and that hole has gotten deeper and deeper. Thinking about how we can support them in ways that are not traditional lending is really important, in my mind.

Gary R. Woods

Hey, Alfreda, can I add to Suzanne’s comments? You hit on something that we spent a lot of time talking about at the Chamber when we’re talking about innovation or being more strategic in terms of your thinking. Business coaching is so vitally important, particularly in the African American community, because oftentimes our small businesses are a byproduct of extra income to support a family.

As an example, you may have a single mother who works a job but don’t make enough on her job. So, she takes on an addition or starts a business, doing something that is unique to her skill set. But it typically has a low entry cost associated with it, and it’s used to supplement that income, but they don’t seek out the necessary coaching to ensure that their business, because it legitimately is a business is not structured appropriately, and they don’t have a strategic or business plan for their business to help them survive setbacks like a pandemic or something like that.

When you have an individual or a family that is affected, not only in terms of their employment, being laid off, but then on top of that, they’re not able to make that additional supplemental income, it becomes devastating. It’s primarily just due to a lack of knowledge or access to resources, to where they can think differently about their business.

I’ll give you an example of that. African American restaurants in the African American community, oftentimes, they start out with, typically without a bank loan. They use their own income to supplement their business venture. They open up their business, however, they don’t think about the fact that problems will come and you definitely don’t think about a pandemic, that’s going to last a year plus or even longer.

Things such as perhaps expanding into mobile mill type service, a drive up or drive through, being able to leverage the internet to be able to place orders, because so many of the restaurants were closed due to either some sort of executive order or under an order from our governor. As a result, they just sat there. iN addition to that, they had to layoff some employees. So, how does that business exists to that level of hardship? They have to reinvent themselves, or they have to leverage various different diverse ways of servicing. Whether it be connecting with a DoorDash type service, or whether it be a mobile food truck where people can walk up so that they don’t have to open up the doors to their restaurant and put people at risk.

Just that strategic thinking, is going to be vitally important. Then also too, while they were operating, seeking out a relationship with a lending institution that has a vested interest in supporting small businesses, as opposed to just going with the big name lending institutions, who oftentimes would add to the frustration and the anxiety, because let’s just face it, most businesses and African American community, they start without a loan. There’s no established credit with a lending institution. It’s a bootstrap thing for most of these small businesses. How can you take someone who doesn’t have a relationship with an institution, then all of a sudden tell them, go get a partnership with an institution? That’s not even culturally acceptable.

Alfreda Norman

So true. So many of these things that you were discussing were problems before the pandemic, and the pandemic has exasperated a bit, but it also creates a sense of urgency to know that, now, you really have to face things, and we don’t know what’s around the corner. John, I’m wondering what you’re thinking about, what your business… Individuals and businesses, when it comes to small businesses, there’s a fine line between my family and my business, sometimes it blurs. You know that. If your business is struggling, obviously, it really hits your kitchen table, your dining room table, or what’s happening.

John, I’m just wondering, what reflections might you have, and what are the needs now for small business folks in Philadelphia?

John Chin

All the comments that I heard are spot on, and what you’ve just mentioned… My parents ran a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. At the age of seven, I found myself working there, and you’re probably right, the small business is the family business, and that’s the revenue stream that’s going to support our family. This isn’t a finger pointing, but just a matter of fact that many of the small businesses were caught with their pants down.

What I mean by that is, when the economy is good, business and operations does not have to run efficiently. But who could have even predicted this year long, economic devastation that we’re all experiencing? In today’s environment, Gary just mentioned this, our businesses have to figure out the social media marketing. Their customer are no longer cash only businesses, where people walk by to pick up their order, or come in and dine. They have to be competing on the internet, regionally.

That’s where the business support and technical assistance is really important, because our small business have to learn how to operate on the internet. Because I think the days of 100 percent passer by business is gone. When I talk about operations and efficiency, I was talking to a restaurant business owner, he used to open 4 pm for a given dining hour, till 4:00 am. That business for him is gone, he now opens for the lunch hour 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. He has a very short period of time, he still has to pay a full kitchen staff, and he still has to pay front of the house workers.

Now, his food costs rose from 33 percent of his sales to 50 percent. There’s delivery services that we all love to use, right? They can take anywhere from 15 percent to 30 percent of a sale. He’s got what, 45 percent to 50 percent of the remaining cash that he has to pay for everything else? There’s no luxury for mistakes for these small businesses. They need a lot of coaching, in terms of how to better operate, how to market on social media, and number three, really understand their customer and the market because it’s really changed, today.

Alfreda Norman

Yeah, well, man, for all listening, that was a lot of good advice. I’m going to switch gears a little bit, because not only we were in the midst of a global pandemic, but we had some things happening from a social standpoint happening in our communities as well, and I’m wondering, this question is to all of you, do you feel your communities are acknowledging the significant inequality, or inequity that is in America? If so, can you give some specific examples?

Gary R. Woods

I’ll jump in. I can tell you that, during the initial rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program, we definitely saw a difference in terms of how certain businesses were being handled compared to others. The minority-owned businesses, number one, because they didn’t necessarily have an established banking relationship, they were already on the outside. But also, when you look at minority-owned businesses, the majority of them have a tendency to be sole proprietors.

As a part of the Paycheck Protection Program, there was the first phase. They couldn’t even apply for the PPP program during that first week. That was problematic because oftentimes, those businesses are most vulnerable, and they need the help the most. But at the same time, we had some lending institution who were basically taking the approach of, hey, let’s look at our customer base. It was almost a too big to fail kind of strategy.

Our big businesses, with some of our larger banks, they were proactive in contacting and interacting with the larger corporations and getting them situated and set up, and in some issues, I know in Oklahoma, we saw that there were significant funds being lended to some larger corporations, to the tune of $500,000, $600,000, $700,000, even as high as a million dollars when a small business owner couldn’t get $10,000, let alone even get into line to get $10,000.

That one week delay in having the ability to apply was problematic. Because, again, we’re talking about people trying to survive a couple of months. Some of these people were struggling almost a week, and then of course, you’re talking about the application process on top of that. That sort of inequality was problematic, and that was something that I was glad to see that there were changes being made with phase two. That’s just a byproduct of the fact that, number one, we were learning. But in that phase one, it definitely appeared that there was more concern about Wall Street than Main Street.

That to me, just stood out just quickly, especially when you take in consideration that, 99 percent of small businesses are going to be these small mom and pop shops, and we were losing them, just in a matter of months, as many as more than 400,000 in the first 60 days, they were shutting down. That was concerning for me, and it disproportionately affected Black and brown businesses even more so.

Alfreda Norman

Thanks for sharing that, Gary.

Elmy Bermejo

I wanted to share what we were doing in San Francisco when it came to the social fabric, especially in the Latino community. And early on, a group of folks said, no one’s going to help us. Not with social things, not with… We have to do it ourselves. The Latino Taskforce on COVID-19 was established and 30 CDOs Unidos en Salud, Together in Health, or United for Health.

These folks, I’m proud to be a member of that, because it was a lot of community folks from small business owners, service providers came together to say, what does the community need? Food, there was a food distribution. Testing. There’s a testing site. In fact, The New York Times did an article about this, and then it was vaccines, but there are weekly meetings, and the woman who runs it, you get one second, if you don’t have your thoughts together, she goes on to the next person, because it’s not a committee meeting, it’s a report out meeting. What are you doing? What do you need? When do you need it? And how do we move forward?

It’s been very successful. It’s very cultural competent because you want to go to get your vaccine where you know folks. If there is reticence about, well, I don’t know about the vaccine, I’m concerned. People hear all kinds of weird stories. You go to the community, and there are people, not only that look like you, but that speak your language, are going to help you.

From how to make the appointment to get vaccinated, to where you’re going to go. You can’t get it here, we’ll figure out how to get you to the next place that has that vaccine for you. It’s a year old now, that just celebrated a year, but elected officials are also under call to report, what are they doing? What kind of small business funding does, like the mayor have, or does the community have? What can we do with the Small Business Commission? What do people need?

Small businesses were talking to each other about what was needed. But it’s become a resource point, and it’s been very successful and very helpful to the Latino community in San Francisco. It’s really amazing to see what has happened with this group.

Alfreda Norman

Kind of a proactive to make sure that you’ve got the piece of pie that you needed to get help.

Elmy Bermejo

Not waiting for somebody, to save ourselves.

Alfreda Norman

John or Suzanne, do want to jump in?

Suzanne Anarde

Sure. A bit of a different tactic. As a CDFI, we get investments and they have covenants. While we work really hard to serve Indigenous communities, Native American, Alaskan Native, specific natives, it’s sometimes hard to match our source of funds, with the needs on the ground. Something really interesting with PPP, which by the way, we had to go to three banks.

Nonprofits we’re also in the inequitable distribution of PPP. What was interesting to me is, I have some really cool stats that if our loan fund could track like this normally, I would be a happy camper. But the SBA guarantee, this is what we were able to do, which the gap between what we do normally with traditional lending funds and what we were able to do with obviously the 0 percent money with the guarantee on it, 33 percent If our loans went to nonprofit organizations, 76 percent of our loans had less than 10 employees, 86 percent, the loans were under $150,000. 47 percent were in persistent poverty counties, 21 percent in Indigenous communities, and we saved numerous jobs.

There’s something to be learned here. I know for us, we were like, these are the stats I want, these are the stats, our mission. But there’s a mismatch. As we think about cultural competency, as Elmy talked about, in our lending, there are different things, I think everybody’s mentioned it, there are different factors that have to be considered with small businesses, Black, brown, whatever, rural, I put them in that category too, that we need to be thinking about, and we need to do that as a lending community, because those stats, I would love to have those on our regular. But it was a different kind of capital that came in. I just shared from an equity lens, that was a real eye opener for us.

John Chin

I’ll just add to that, yeah, there are inequities, and there were inequities. Just in talking about the PPP loans. If the strategy was to get the money out to the small businesses as quickly as possible, that definitely did happen. As the strategy was to make sure that it was spread out evenly, that really didn’t happen well in the first phase. I think, to Gary’s point, they made adjustments and made huge improvements.

The story about the small business approaching a very large bank, that happened here, I heard that many times, and they never got a response back from the large bank. But we have great community banks here in Chinatown, and even though the business was not a customer of the community bank, the community bank turned its loan around in less than three days.

That’s a success story, and that is where people and businesses and banks step in, because there is inequity. The other inequity that we saw is that many small businesses, many of the loans the PPP loans were about $4,000. Not a lot of money. But $4,000 is maybe a lot of money for that small business. We’ve seen inequities in various phases of the pandemic, and the PPP loan is just one type of inequity.

Alfreda Norman

Well, some good nuggets from what you all said about this post-COVID recovery, and thinking about equitable recovery. I think there’s lessons learned in the distribution of PPP, so that there are things that we learned in that process-

Gary R. Woods

Alfreda, can I add something about that?

Alfreda Norman

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gary R. Woods

When we were talking about, for instance, nonprofits, they were not eligible in phase one, but they were eligible in phase two. The other group is one that I deal with all the time would be those individuals, because of mistakes in the past, if they were a convicted felon, they were also ineligible for the PPP program, and that was something of a concern, because when you think about the incarceration rates and things of that nature, and people come out of prison or jail, many times, they cop a plea, so they never really even go to trial or court or anything, they’re just trying their best to get out of a bad situation, and they can’t get a job. So, they start a business.

They start a business and they’ve paid their debt to society, and they’re out there running a good business, turning over a new leaf, trying to do the right thing. Then when it’s time for assistance, they don’t qualify because of a mistake in the past.

I think I heard someone say that it is so vitally important that when we roll out programs like this, that we talk to Main Street and go into certain communities to try to find out. I think it was Suzanne, and I appreciate those comments, Suzanne, that you need to understand, what does the small business economy in a particular area or in some of these metropolitan areas really look like in terms of who the business owners are, the types of backgrounds and what they’re doing.

They’re doing good, they’re running a good business, they’re doing the right thing, and a lot of them are employing people. Maybe it’s a strategic approach to how they structure their business that could help them in the long run, or maybe we could have some considerations in how we roll out programs or in the bylaws of the program or whatever, guidance documents, whatever, to where we don’t exclude people who are really, really doing what they’re supposed to be doing. At the end of the day, they’re tax paying business owners just like everyone else. The only difference is, they made a mistake.

Alfreda Norman

Great point. Well, gosh, I could go on with lots more questions. But I think we’ve got an audience that I’m sure has some questions. Before we switch to our Q&A feed, Matuschka, we’re going to go to some polling questions.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

That is right. Thank you, Alfreda. Okay, let’s turn to some polling questions. We have two more that we want to ask and then we’re going to get to Q&A. Remember, feel free to email us or use the Ask a Question to send in some questions. The first polling question, have you lost a favorite local business to COVID? Yes, or no. Please just go ahead and click on your screen, and then don’t forget to hit submit. I’m going to give you about 10 more seconds here to fill that out.

Wait a minute, I think I asked the first polling question. This one is, did the pandemic strengthen your town’s sense of community? Did the pandemic strengthen your town’s sense of community? Okay, let’s go ahead and have the results. 80 percent said yes, that the pandemic didn’t strengthen their their town’s sense of community. That’s a positive way to look at all of this, wouldn’t you say, Alfreda?

Alfreda Norman

Absolutely.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

All righty, let’s go ahead and take that question down and go back to our first polling question that I was responding to, and that will be, have you lost a favorite local business to COVID? Yes or no. Please just go ahead and click on the screen and then hit Submit. I know here, I’m based out of St. Louis, and we definitely tried so hard to keep up with the carry out to make sure that we could keep some of our very favorite businesses here, up and going.

Okay, can we have the results of those? 73 percent said, yes, they did lose one of their favorite local businesses. That’s disheartening, for sure. Thank you so much for all of you participating in our polls. It just helps us, helps the panelists, helps all of us, even as the audience, get an idea of what we’re working with, what we’ve lost, where we need to go from here.

Now, let’s go to questions. As a reminder, we are taking questions from our participants today. So, we’re live with the questions. Please submit them using the Ask a Question panel. You can also email us at communities@stls.frb.org. It looks like all the panelists do have their screens on and don’t forget to go off mute to answer the questions.

I’m going to go ahead and get started. Our first questions are not directed to anyone individually, but they’re pretty general. The first one is, what are some of the creative programs that you see coming out to help vacant retail properties on Main Street? Anybody want to respond to that? I guess the second of the question is they also have, do you anticipate any significant physical changes to buildings where Main Street businesses are located as a result of the pandemic, now and in the future? Basically, anything related to the interior, exterior businesses, also streetscape.

John Chin

Now I’ll say for Chinatown, the small businesses really have small footprints in the interior. When the city at one point last fall, opened up the opportunity to outdoor dining, the opportunities for our corridor, Main Street was very, very limited. But there was one business that closed last year, unfortunately, it was a Chinese noodle manufacturing company. But one of the other businesses in the community saw that as an opportunity. So, what they did was they rented the noodle business, but they didn’t want the interior. They wanted the parking lot so that they could open outdoor dining.

So, they opened up a beer garden in Chinatown for a brief period of time before it got really too cold in Philadelphia. That was a very creative way to repurpose a business that closed.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Anyone else have any thoughts? Okay, let’s go to another question. I think listening to many of you, especially Elmy, it makes other entrepreneurs think, okay, where do I go from here? What is your best advice for starting up a new business at this time?

Elmy Bermejo

Do your homework, I think that’s the best advice, and certainly talking to the folks on this panel, and hopefully re-listen to this program, because I think you’ll get really great nuggets of information. But do your homework. Just as an example, a friend of mine said, “I think I’ll open a bar.” I said, location, location, location, I said, because you have to be prepared now in your head to okay, if things are going well, what if there’s a pandemic? Do I need an outdoor garden? Is there a bus shelter right next to where I want to be?

Those kinds of practical things where you think, well, I have to think about all the logistics, what does it look like inside? Is there a garden? Can I do a garden outside so people could sit down? Whatever business you’re in, it is doing your homework beforehand. Most of us in family owned business, we just get an idea, and we do it. And now you just have to a little bit more preparation, but also arming oneself with the tools for assistance and for advice, and the business coaching that was discussed, are all very helpful tools before. It’s like, just do some background, what do you need? What are the questions that you have to anticipate?

Also, don’t just go to the first lending institution. Compare and contrast. What is going to work for you, and what kind of investments do you have to? Don’t think of going big all at once. Right now, maybe it starts small and see if there’s room for expansion as well, just so that you’re not discouraged, but I think the economy is getting better. But it’s going to take a while for us to get to where we were and we have to be realistic about that.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Elmy, you brought up great points there, and Gary, I just saw you open your mic, because I think this is something that you touched on as well. How do you not only work with entrepreneurs, but how are you working with small businesses that maybe have never had relationships with financial institutions? How are you getting them to change their mindsets, as well as how should entrepreneurs think about this?

Gary R. Woods

Was that a question for me?

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Absolutely, and anybody else who would like to take it.

Gary R. Woods

Yeah. The reality is this, I think it’s vitally important to have a relationship with a lending institution. I think it’s important to have the relationship with the right one, the one that basically fits your needs as a small business owner. But I think that’s a part of the long term strategy. I would say that, first things first, adding to what Elmy is saying, think about your business. Is it a good time to open up a business? Yeah, it probably is because going to the question before when they were talking about, hey, what opportunities perhaps exists with some actual brick and mortar like structures to move into. Because of the economic downturn, there are owners of a lot of those restaurants or buildings or whatever, strip malls, they’re looking to make some deals right now, because the vacancies are killing them, they don’t want that vacancy. So, they might make you an ideal lease agreement that would be beneficial for you.

Also, there are some properties that are being managed or maintained by your local city or town and there may be some opportunities there as well, where they might, perhaps, have you, depending upon whether or not you’re a nonprofit, or whatever. You might have the opportunity to be able to get a property at a very, very reduced cost.

Those are things that you might want to look into, but also too, when it comes to your business, be strategic, and make sure that you have some flexibility in the type of business and how you choose to deploy your business. I’ll give you an example, in Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce, we have a chamber partner, and I’ll throw her name out there; her name was BMB catering. She had a banquet hall, and it was purely a walk in banquet hall.

When the pandemic happened, then, of course, she had to shut down. But during that time, she took the opportunity to rethink and retool her business in such a way that she was able to relocate closer to the community in which she lived, that’s number one. Number two, she was able to occupy a Pizza Hut, a vacant Pizza Hut that had closed down just prior to the pandemic, in which I’m assuming that she probably got the lease agreement at a reasonable cost.

It offered for her not only the facilities that she needed, but she was able to get a better parking lot. It had a drive thru window and space for walk up. In addition to that, she invested in a food truck. Now, there are multiple ways that, in the event, a pandemic or something was to happen, she can still continue in one way, shape or another, to continue to operate her business. Then she looked at what she was offering in the way of food product, and she was able to tailor that to the community in which she served so that the business would have a predictable following or customer base.

All of those were very, very strategic moves that she made, and in addition to that, she was also able to leverage technology, having her Facebook online menu. Then also, if you had an iPhone, she had the scannable menu, so that you could just go up with your iPhone and hit the little grid or the barcode there and the menu will come up on the phone. All of those things were just perfect examples of how you can leverage technology to make your business more convenient for your customers to continue to come and do business with you.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Thank you for that, Gary. That was very helpful.

Alfreda Norman

I just want to add one thing in there, is that also think about the trends that are going to be coming post-COVID. If you just had to think about it as a business person or an entrepreneur, what are people going to want to do when they come out again? I’ll tell you, being with other people is going to be high on the list, going, what creative ways can you have outdoor, where people can play games? I think there’s going to be such a yearning for gathering again. So, what kind of innovation and creative things can you think about when people want to do this again? Anyway, just throw that out as thinking about future trends.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Alfreda, that is such a good point, which also makes me wonder a question that I wanted to ask was, after the 2008 recession, it seemed that it took a while for hiring activity to resume. How has hiring been, especially with all the new technology, with the new trends, how quickly are you seeing hiring picking up?

John Chin

In Chinatown, the hiring is slow, because right now, most restaurants are still only doing carry out. The indoor dining is very, very limited. Chinatown has basically it’s own economy. The restaurants are purchasing from distributors. Distributors are purchasing from manufacturers. When the business longing is not there, the hiring affects all aspects of the food industry here in Chinatown. So, it’s very slow.

Elmy Bermejo

I just wanted to add that I would agree with that hiring is slow, because there’s always this concern. You hear about the variants, and where it is predominant, in what communities, and you’re just waiting for that other shoe to drop, maybe. You’re cautiously optimistic, and you just don’t want to invest and then have to let people go. I think there’s a little bit of a wait and see attitude, and hopefully this stays the course.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Okay. This next question is from a government official. What would you advise the government to do if we had this situation happen again? What could we do better? What did we do a terrible job of?

Elmy Bermejo

I’d like to start with that. What I saw in terms of programs, for instance, investing more in public health. There are no investments in public health, and you see that in different counties in California and how that plays out, that there are many challenges with broadband. In California, it’s like, sign up for my turn. Some counties don’t have broadband to do that. And not only investing in those kinds of things, but also when you look at services that predominantly impact lower-income communities, whether it’s the employment development system that helps folks get their unemployment benefits, those kinds of investments haven’t been made to keep up with technology.

Then when you have this huge downturn in the economy, and people are applying for benefits, the system crashes. I think those are the kinds of investments that are not a quick fix, but it’s going to take a long term and long-term investment, to make sure that public health is a priority for folks. Because you see who falls through the cracks. It’s predominantly communities of color. I think those are the things that each state needs to look at to figure out what kind of long term investments, not quick fixes need to be made, for social services and for the social safety net that should exist for times like these.

Suzanne Anarde

I would also echo that infrastructure of all of the systems within the state and the federal government. The other thing that I think is, we forget, we had to redevelop a foreclosure prevention curriculum, because nobody pays for that, unless everybody’s getting foreclosed on, and then it’s like, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, we got to fix this. Thinking about… I think we’re so… Like, Squirrel, oh, let’s do this, oh let’s do that. When there’s this underlying infrastructure that has to be in place, we have to plan for the good, the bad, and the really ugly, which I think we’ve been through.

That’s where the weaknesses immediately show up. The other thing I think is having an understanding of what it really looks like, on a granular basis, in a rural community, in an Indigenous community, in a community of color, in Chinatown. How do those folks get their information, and who has the quickest access to them? Bring them into the conversation way before there’s a pandemic about the best way to transmit information, resources and support to them, because it is a really difficult task to try to be in the middle of a crisis and trying to build those relationships and for the government to understand how those things flow in the midst of chaos, which is what we basically had.

Gary R. Woods

Some would say that the PPP program was a social program. It’s a social program, like a social type, safety net type program that we would view in the way of a government sponsored, like a Medicare or something like that. One of the things that shocked me a little bit was that, that program was administered through banks, and would have liked to have seen some of that be administered through other groups, other organizations, as opposed to it just coming right to our banks.

The reason why, is because when it was first rolled out, I have two friends, bank presidents/owners and I had conversations with them because we were beginning to network and try to figure out who was actually really interested in this and what were their guidelines in terms of who they would lend to, et cetera, so that we can make references or referrals.

Some of the people internally at banks felt like, well, we don’t know if we’re going to do this, or, we’re not quite sure of these regs and how to deploy them, and things of that nature. Of course, I got to say that we’ve never been through anything like this before in recent history. You got to be reasonable from that standpoint, as well. But now that we know, and also too, when we look back through history, and we find that every 10 to 12 years, we have some sort of economic crisis, I think we need to probably begin thinking more about how do we support our people, our business owners? I say people, because ultimately, that’s who it affects. It affects families in our society. So that we can better serve and do it quickly, so that we don’t have significant loss.

This is a very, very real thing, because we have people who are losing jobs, who are losing health insurance in a pandemic, Just let that sink in for a moment, people were losing jobs, losing their ability to afford or have insurance, in a pandemic, where people were dying. We need to think about that holistically in an approach to ensure that we do as much as we can to minimize the impact of economic downturns like this.

John Chin

Yeah, I think we all have to acknowledge that the government was running towards the fire with its pails of water, trying to make up the rules as they were running towards the fire. The one suggestion, I think, or observation I would like to share is that when we talk about Main Street, whether it’s urban or rural, we already know that the local communities know which businesses work, which aren’t working, and this is true of community banking. The small banks better understand the commercial corridors, the larger banks are quite a bit far removed.

In anticipation of the next crises, I think government needs to think about all the assets that they have on the ground, these community based organizations. If you can all run together towards the fire together, I think that will help reduce the amount of inequity that we saw, because not only are you developing the rollout and the regulations, but you have all these different organizations and agencies that are in these communities, in the main streets, running with you and helping you develop the rollout on the ground.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Thank you all for sharing that. We have just about ran out of time here. I do want Suzanne to share about CDFI Week on the West Coast. I understand you’re part of the California Coalition for Community Investments. Can you share a little more with us?

Suzanne Anarde

Sure, yeah. We’re just finishing up our first ever California CDFI Week at the Capitol. We’re really excited. Senate Bill 625, which would establish California Investment and Innovation Fund, would create an ongoing partnership with CDFIs to assist the state efficiently deploy resources to our communities in need, communities of color, rural, urban, the entire gamut of who CDFIs serve.

I think the bill represents a growing recognition by the public sector that CDFIs can be really valuable partners in providing capital and resources to underserved communities. Good, bad, or ugly times. I am super excited, we’re really excited, and it’s been really successful, and just appreciate the opportunity to give them a shout out.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

That sounds good. Well, before we close the show, I would like to say, Alfreda, do you have any final remarks for our audience?

Alfreda Norman

Well, I appreciate everybody joining today. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I know I certainly did. I really hope that you subscribe to fedcommunities.org to engage with the stories and resources from communities across the country, including the stories that we heard here today in more detail, if you haven’t read those, they’re on fed communities.org.

Also, to support small businesses in your community and learn which policies impact the community lenders that provide small businesses with much needed capital. Finally, tell a colleague about the Fed’s work in the communities. I look forward to many more conversations like these in the future.

Matuschka Lindo Briggs

Thank you. I’d like to thank all of our speakers today for sharing their time and stories with us. I would also like to thank, Alfreda, for moderating, as well as all the participants that joined today. In and out, we appreciate the time that you had for us and for our discussion on A Year of Crisis, and Now What? Where Our Main Streets Go From Here. I think we got a lot of great information.

A few reminders, we will have a recording available with an audio file on the Connecting Communities website, and the Fed Communities website. We also welcome ideas for future recordings. We just shared a survey link, if you joined us in the webinar, and this same link will be distributed via email in a few minutes. We’d appreciate your feedback about today’s session. Well, thank you for joining us. This concludes today’s Connecting Communities webinar. Enjoy the rest of the day.