State grant program could give relief to minority businesses hit by COVID-19

VIDEO: State grant program could give relief to minority businesses hit by COVID-19

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Businesses across the state have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and some minority businesses have been hit even harder.

State lawmakers say there may be some relief on the way.

On Wednesday, the S.C. House of Representatives passed a $50 million grant program which would give qualifying minority businesses a grant -- ranging from $2,500 to $25,000. The money would be for the businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Rep. JA Moore said in his own experience as a chef, his catering company has been affected by this pandemic.

He has also visited Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses, as well as Black-owned businesses, that would benefit from this type of help.

The Senate passed a similar provision, so Moore said the next step would be to find a compromise.

“This is a very much needed program that we passed. The good news is there is some relief for minority businesses across the state,” Moore said. “We need to do more, and we’re hoping that when we go to conference with the Senate, we can make additional compromises and hopefully get some more money.”

In August, the U.S Chamber of Commerce and Metlife released a report that found minority business-owners are more likely than non-minority owners to report difficulties in getting loans, and more had fears about having to permanently close.

Hispanic and Latino businesses have been hit especially hard. Esteban MaYebe is the executive Vice President of Xtreem Cleaners, a janitorial and commercial cleaning company in Charleston.

The company has a large Hispanic work force, and they are slowly trying to build that work force back up up after losing workers.

“On the financial side, our business dropped at least 70 percent at the beginning, maybe a little higher during COVID because all the hotels shut down,” MaYebe said. " We had about 150 workers and probably 35-40 hotels that we were providing service to, but due to COVID it completely dropped, it just changed dramatically."

He said they were able to get some financial help, but not much.

Although there is no guarantee the cleaning company would qualify for the grants, MaYebe said that help for Hispanic businesses would be appreciated.

“I don’t know how much the local government knows about Hispanic businesses being around. It’s a growing community. A little help would be nice to help Hispanics because they are a strong work force,” MaYebe said.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.