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San Diego small businesses get a $6 million boost from COVID-19 relief funds

COVID-19 relief funds have meant a $6 million boost for hundreds of small businesses in San Diego. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere spoke with one of those business owners.

Makena Gargonnu owns an entertainment company that was hit hard by the ripple effects of COVID-19. Hers is one of more than a thousand local businesses that have applied to San Diego's Small Business Relief Grant Program.

“It's been a blessing because my event planning company was extremely affected by it," she said. "Because I had to shut down pretty much all of my operations. I actually just did my first live event, probably a week-and-a-half ago, in twenty months.”

RELATED: County Supervisors Approve Plan To Spend $650 Million In Federal COVID Relief Money

Gargonnu joined Mayor Todd Gloria and other local leaders outside of Young’s Mart in Southeast San Diego on Tuesday morning to announce the impact of the program.

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Jacob Aere
Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at a press conference outside of Young's Mart, Nov. 23, 2021.

Gloria said each small business was awarded grants of $5,000.

“The San Diego Foundation is also helping us to administer these funds, ensuring they go to those who need it the most," he said. "That's why we have prioritized businesses in economically underserved communities that have not yet received COVID-19 relief funding."

Gargonnu’s husband also owns a small business as a fitness professional.

The couple previously received COVID-19 relief grants through the San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, but their companies were still strained by the pandemic.

Gargonnu said they are grateful business is slowly getting back to normal.

“It was scary for many of us. My best friend, she does hair for a living, so she couldn’t do hair," she said. "Everything we felt we were born to do, we couldn’t do. So we had to shift and I had to start doing virtual events and different things, I guess you could say, to bide time."

Prior to the pandemic, 60% of San Diegans were employed by small businesses and more than 90% of the city’s businesses had less than 100 employees.

“I'm from San Diego, was born and raised in Southeast San Diego," Gargonnu said. "I think it's a blessing to be able to help my community by giving back, by providing business where they can work for us.”

Later this year, an additional $6 million of funding will be distributed to qualifying local nonprofit organizations.