LBC Helps Nonprofits & Small Biz
By Dianne Anderson
Ever since the last go-round of stimulus dollars, money has been flowing through multiple streams, and will continue over the next two years for those astute enough to grab at it.
Jeff Williams, operations director for the Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion (LBCEI), said that ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funding is coming out slowly, he said, but it is coming.
His center is reaching out to nonprofits and businesses in need.
“We have a lot going on, a lot of it about how to get resources to folks,” he said. “We just finished all the application process for that and some of our organizations are starting to get their relief grants, and it’s really exciting.”
So far, they have helped several small businesses with programs to assist small restaurant owners in north Long Beach. Those who have received help were not chain establishments, but rather owned by people in the community.
LBCEI was one of six organizations contracted by the city to outreach from March through mid-June to help get more money into the hands of other nonprofits and small businesses. The goal was to target help, specifically to make sure they were getting the applications in.
“The other day that someone got $15,000, someone got 10,000, someone got $5,000. It’s been really nice, businesses have been really struggling and facing a lot of challenges,” he said. “Right now, where the need is that they can’t find steady workers.”
The city is receiving all of the applications, overseeing the process and making the ultimate decisions. He said they pulled a large list of respondents, and more applications came in than expected, which is a good thing.
He commended the city’s economic development efforts through the Long Beach Recovery Act Small Business and Nonprofit Relief grant programs that are helping hundreds of local organizations.
LBCEI also gave input to the city in the process, and he expects that most of the applicants will receive some sort of funding.
“They have a priority scale so the money goes out to first come, first serve and it has an equity lens of the community you’re from, who you’re serving and who your leadership is,” he said. “Hopefully, the businesses and nonprofits that we specifically support are going to be at the top of that list.”
Through the center’s business navigator program, they also help support small local businesses with day-to-day issues, focusing efforts in North Long Beach, Central, along with some help west of the city.
Initially, the nonprofit started under the direction of Vice Mayor and councilmember Rex Richardson, to serve underrepresented families, small businesses and low-income communities in areas of food security, small business support, economic resiliency, technology, workforce and youth development.
Homeowner workshops are also preparing the community to buy a home of their own in the future. Recently, they held a homebuyer education course and video specifically to reach Black households as part of the center’s Black Wealth Initiative.
Turnout was great, and he said that while most people can’t afford to buy at this moment, the current economy shouldn’t stop the community from increasing their knowledge base and getting their documents prepared for the future.
There will be better times ahead.
“I went to the last session and it’s really about awareness of the resources for first-time homeowners, getting them prepared when they are ready to buy. A lot of this has to do with getting credit in order and ready to go when the time comes,” he said.
As an organization, LBCEI programs were established toward economic equity, specifically in housing, small business, and the workforce. He said that it started before COVID-19, but they quickly went into emergency mode.
“We’re trying to get back to our roots,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have a pandemic, but the numbers are going up, not down. It’s rough, our families are really struggling.”
The center offers a food support network of pantry partners serving 4,500 people monthly with fresh food and produce distributed weekly.
Coming up, they will be participating with resources at the city’s largest annual event, the Uptown Jazz Festival on August 27.
Digital inclusion is another big focus lately. Williams said their recent contract with the city specifically provides free hotspots, laptops, and internet service available for qualifying residents and small business owners starting this month. There is a low-income qualification, but he said the service is open for all in need, and also seniors.
But the community needs to know the opportunity is first come, first serve. There is also a free training program that goes along with the technology.
“If people need technology, it’s free and available, and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said. “Right now a lot of small businesses are needing technology, they have old laptops or no laptops. People still need the internet and a lot of seniors need this kind of support.”
For more information on LBCEI, see https://lbcei.org/black-wealth-initiative/
For current and upcoming grant or assistance help, see https://www.longbeach.gov/recovery/opportunities/assistance-programs/
For BizCare help and funding for businesses and CBO’s, see https://www.longbeach.gov/economicdevelopment/business-development/bizcare-program/