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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

City Website Overwhelmed By Small Businesses Seeking Coronavirus Relief Funding

Empty chairs are seen inside Bluxom Salon in North Park, March 30, 2020.

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: Empty chairs are seen inside Bluxom Salon in North Park, March 30, 2020.

Part of the city of San Diego's website was briefly overwhelmed last week by small businesses seeking emergency grants and loans to help them stay solvent, at the coronavirus pandemic forces many of them to close.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council approved $6.1 million to be given to small businesses impacted by the forced shutdowns. The online application was due to go live at 5 p.m. on Friday but was quickly made inaccessible as a rush of web traffic overwhelmed city servers.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Christina Bibler, director of the city's Economic Development Department, said the city was able to restore the website several hours later. She said her team spent all weekend returning voicemails from frustrated business owners and sent out PDF versions of the applications to ensure everyone was able to submit.

"We're working concurrently to set up additional funds to be made available through private entities and donations," Bibler said. "We knew that $6.1 million was not going to be enough for our small businesses."

Reported by Andrew Bowen

Marchelle McKiernan, owner of Bluxom Salon in North Park, said it took her about 6 and a half hours to finally submit her application online.

"What was most painful was looking at these different mayors high-fiving our mayor for doing such a great job, but not even considering that hundreds of business owners were in hysterics trying to get in line for this funding," McKiernan said. "And many of them will close if they don't get it."

McKiernan said she closed her business a week before the county ordered salons closed, and that she had to lay off all her employees — though she plans on rehiring them as soon as she's able to open up again.

As of Monday evening, the city had received more than 6,200 applications for relief funding. Bibler said grants would still be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, and that some of the funds were reserved for businesses located in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

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Photo of Andrew Bowen

Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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