This is part of a series of Q&As for Mayoral and City Council candidates for the November 2020 election. Questions were submitted by Milpitas residents.
The pandemic has hurt many of our small businesses. How would you support small businesses in recovering?
Voltaire Montemayor: It is tough, but if we’re all in, then we could do it. My initial idea is to patronize or buy local; the second is to have or motivate the local businesses to attain a quality of product and great customer service so that even people from the adjacent or neighboring cities will get attracted. Stimulus Relief is a big help. The aids and grants are maintained to be as is and not a loan. Thanks to our City Council’s decision.
Rich Tran: Providing public and private support to move small business operations to the outdoors.
City Council Candidates
Evelyn Chua: Small businesses are the lifeblood of our city. With the pandemic, they’re hurting and closing. For the city to remain stable, we must help our businesses. Focusing on businesses will bring jobs and financial healing to our City. We need to create a business team to address post COVID recovery and also create a “One Stop Destination Portal” as a business resource. We can also strengthen our relationship with the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce; they represent the majority of the businesses and are a good source of information. I’d also like to strengthen the Economic Development Team; it’s the team that seeks for companies to do business in Milpitas. I’d promote more Industrial and Commercial developments, and also hold an annual “Milpitas Businesses First” to showcase what we can offer to businesses.
Julian Nool Hilario Jr.: We need to continue assessing our small businesses’ needs by sending out the survey that the Office of Economic Development has put together. Based on the survey result, whether it be finding grants to keep financially afloat or personal protective equipment (mask, hand sanitizer, face shields) supplies to support staff and customer safety, I will partner with the necessary stakeholders within the City Hall and community. I want our small businesses to connect with real-world advice, coaching, tools, and experts in the following areas: accounting, finance, cash flow management, marketing, digitizing the business, HR strategies, legal, and daily operations so that they can strategize to remain open.
Robert Marini: The city needs revenue from small businesses so the city should get an engineering team to research methods to improve the ventilation of small businesses so they can reopen.
Demetress Morris: The small businesses in Milpitas will need to make changes to endure this current crisis. A few of those changes include protecting the health as well as safety of the employees and customers, while adapting to new staffing models and labor practices. The Paycheck Protection Program established by the CARES Act, which can be obtained through the Small Business Administration supported by the Department of the Treasury can help in certain areas such as taxes and so forth. More importantly, as a city, there is a need to partner with state and local government to ensure that our businesses qualify and receive the assistance needed to remain viable during this time.
Bob Nuñez: As a part of city council, I have already helped small businesses by: Allocating $200,000 to the small business assistance sub-committee that provided micro-enterprise grants to a total of 38 businesses in the amounts of $5,000.00 each. Also — development of a Virtual Business Assistance Center where businesses could come to get information and assist in their day to day needs during the pandemic, and the assistance is provided in multiple languages. To assist one of our hardest hit small businesses and restaurants, partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and the Milpitas Executive Lions Club, of which I am President, we contacted over 225 restaurants for marketing and promotion. I brought representatives from the Small Business Development Corporation to present regarding business assistance, business loans and the iBank to the City for the Business Resiliency and Recovery Webinar. Approximately 130 people participated in the webinar. I co-hosted with the Chamber of Commerce, a virtual business roundtable, gathering information from local small businesses and hearing their ideas on what would help them during this COVID-19 pandemic. This information was passed on to the City Manager. Going forward, I would establish a small and large business roundtable that will allow for continuous input from those business owners directly affected within Milpitas.
Anthony Phan: As a small business owner myself, it breaks my heart to see the impact this pandemic has made on our community. On the City Council, I voted to provide immediate COVID-19 relief and assistance, approving hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and grants, creating a detailed framework for safe re-opening, and partnering with many community organizations to establish additional programs and incentives for struggling small businesses. Our “Shop Milpitas” campaign, made possible through coordination with the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce and Milpitas Executive Lions Club, enables residents to be connected with over 225 restaurants and eateries. Our Virtual Business Assistance Center provides support in multiple languages including Mandarin, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese and has been utilized by over 350 business representatives. I’m committed to continue supporting our business community in increased resources and direct economic relief as we approach the third round of Community Development Block Grant allocations.
Suraj Viswanathan: We need greater flexibility to end or limit the lockdowns so that more businesses can re-open safely, on expedited timelines. The lockdowns were initially to be for fifteen days to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed. Yet, to a large extent, they are still going on seven months later and the state is making these decisions for us instead of the residents and elected officials of Milpitas.
Tiffany Vuong: Our small businesses make Milpitas unique, and it is very sad to see them close or struggle during the pandemic. When the public health rules change, shop owners need a permit to open their doors, so streamlining the permit process will enable them to get back to business earlier and give them greater opportunity to make up for lost profits. Additionally, I would not support any sales tax increase because it is a regressive tax, not a progressive tax, meaning that it falls disproportionately on low- and moderate- income people. An increase in sales tax will discourage customers who are struggling the most from making purchases, which will in turn impact our small business community. In addition, the County’s eviction moratorium covers commercial tenants, specifically those who are defined under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of small business, if they have suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19. The moratorium is currently set to end on November 30, 2020, after which tenants will have six months to pay back 50% of what is owed, and twelve months to pay the rest. The city has the jurisdiction to pass its own eviction moratorium that is stronger than the County’s. The City Council can enact its own eviction ban for small businesses that lasts for a period of time after the pandemic so that they can open up and earn their money again. We can give them a fighting chance to recover and keep their leases.