Black Vets and Small Biz Seek Resources to Reopen
By Dianne Anderson
California businesses – those left standing – may pick up speed as the state soon reopens without the outdoor mask mandate, and a promise of more money for those that apply through May 31 for round two of PPP loans.
Robert “Bobby” McDonald, Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County President, said some good funding options are coming up for small and veteran-owned businesses.
One resource, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), are also helping 501c3’s and other small businesses, but even more resources are available to keep the lights on and the doors open.
Recently, McDonald was a presenter at a CalVet event talking about programs, new funding sources, and as importantly, how to steer clear of the pitfalls.
Getting access to bank funding is one way, but he said many small businesses are not in good standing with their financial institutions.
“If you don’t have a contact at a bank. If you don’t have money in the bank, or know the bank manager, you’re starting from scratch,” he said. “[Some banks] have a program, but I also know that people are calling veterans saying there is help for them to get PPP money for a fee. Again, there’s always the loan sharks, it’s hard money.”
Despite the pressure on businesses over the past year, McDonald feels confident that support for Black businesses in Orange County is starting to step up to a new level. He is seeing an uptick in inquiries, and companies have called him from Los Angeles asking if they could donate to the Black Chamber Education fund.
He is hopeful.
“My gut feeling is that here in Orange County the temperature has changed,” he said. “People call the Black chamber asking for help. This is the busiest that the Black Chamber of Orange County has been since I’ve been here since 1990.”
In February, he also presented a Black History Month spread as a guest speaker for the California Department of Veterans Affairs. In June, he is a keynote speaker covering “Equity in Access to Benefits and Services” at the CalVet Summit.
“We have a lot on our website and [resources] we’re passing out to people. From the Black Chamber’s perspective, I’ve been working with Edison and the gas company to let people know what’s happening out in the real world for veterans,” said McDonald, who is also a veteran.
As some of the pandemic restrictions ease up this summer, Cathy Steele Woodard is also noticing that her phone is ringing more with inquiries from folks who are ready to break out.
Steele Woodard, who owns a travel agency, said now that they’ve got the vaccine, they feel more comfortable about traveling, ready to fly or cruise.
Ports and flights are reopening, but some people are still cautious of going outside of the U.S.
Some cruises are still being canceled. She is working with clients, giving them all of the information as they need about warnings, and COVID restrictions. Those leaving the states must test before traveling, and test when they return.
“You have to let them know, they need to make the decision. I’m very careful about trying not to push or persuade someone. I just give them the facts. Things can still change pretty quickly,” she said.
Last March, she had trips for clients planned to Israel that were postponed, where travel remains risky “wait and see” on a Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory there.
But for the most part, she knows people are ready to roll.
“They want to get out. I’d like nothing more than to book them,” she laughs, but remembers how she spent the first five months of last year canceling and rescheduling tours previously booked. “It was a lot of work. That’s just part of doing business right now.”
She and her family went to Hawaii in March, which said was clean, and there were no problems.
Recently, a lot of hot specials are going on, many airlines and resorts are still booking at 50% capacity. For her clients, she is working on an October cruise headed for the Bahamas. She advises folks to exercise caution and that the big hotels are being careful with good promos.
She has several bookings this year, and going into next year.
“It’s not about my business making money, it’s about the safety of my clients. I don’t want anyone going anywhere and call me saying you gotta’ get me back home. That’s the last thing I want to hear. I want to hear I had a wonderful time and I’m back safe,” she said.
For more resources, see
Steele Travel Services, see https://www.steeletravelservices.com/
The Black Chamber of Orange County
Information on Round Two PPP Loans
The CDFI Fund, see https://www.cdfifund.gov/