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Latino business owner in Canal neighborhood receives grant

June 4, 2020

By CARL NAGIN | June 4, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Thanks to Omar’s persistent advocacy for Latino business in the Canal, business owners like Enrique received a grant through the Small Business COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund launched by the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce (SRCC).

Enrique Poroj in front of his auto repair shop, GTM Automotive

Like many small business owners, Enrique Poroj worries that his auto repair shop, a Canal neighborhood mainstay, may be another COVID-19 casualty. Before the outbreak, Poroj recalls that his GTM Automotive, which opened in 2012 next to the Canal Alliance parking lot, handled as many as 50 cars on weekends, “but in this situation, it’s just 10 to 12 a week.” 

Business is slow, he adds, because people aren’t driving, and the drop in business forced him to reduce staff from five to only two repair mechanics. “If this continues,” says Poroj, “we may lose the business,” and without it, “we cannot get money to pay rent and take care of our family of four.” 

Poroj’s story is featured along with other Canal Alliance clients in a recent UnidosUS jobs report available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFK3W9H4TnU.

The video explores COVID-19’s impact on Latino working families across the nation, including healthcare and other essential workers on the frontlines of the crisis.  

Minority business owners like Poroj are not finding it easy to get federal assistance from the $350 billion dollar Paycheck Protection Program, and many risk closing shop. According to a survey conducted for UnidosUS and Color of Change, some 45 percent of Black and Latino business owners expect to close within six months, and only 12 percent of survey respondents say they received the full amount of federal assistance they requested from the program.  

Poroj’s struggle reflects the larger statewide picture facing small business owners, particularly those who employ fewer than 50 workers. According to the Public Policy Institute, small businesses make up 95 percent of businesses in California, and they employ a third of all California workers. Of these enterprises, 11 percent are Latino-owned. According to a working paper by UC Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie, the number of Latino-owned businesses dropped 32 percent nationwide between February and April, a figure he calls “devastating.”  

Fortunately, shortly after his UnidosUS interview, Poroj received local support through a one-time grant of $2,500 from the Small Business COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund launched by the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce (SRCC) and administered through its Educational Foundation. Under the leadership of President & CEO Joanne Webster, the SRCC launched the quarter-million dollar charitable relief fund in April to help small businesses in San Rafael to meet operational expenses. Canal Alliance CEO, Omar Carrera, a SRCC board member who serves on the fund’s selection committee, advocated for supporting the Spanish-speaking community and its essential role in Marin’s economic health.  

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