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Grants issued to help small businesses hit hard in disasters

Wells Fargo Bank has allocated $450-thousand to small businesses impacted by two disasters in the last year in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. 60 checks were issued Thursday in a Carpinteria ceremony. Wells Fargo says overall it will be providing about a $1-million economic boost to the area to help struggling businesses rebound from the disasters. Impacts were direct and indirect. Some businesses completely lost their building and supplies. Others lost income when customers were not around or cut off by freeway closures during the disasters. They range from restaurants to delivery services. Santa Barbara’s Mesa Produce says it had to close half days because the air was thick with smoke and customers were not shopping for fruits and vegetables as they normally would. Also, suppliers were cut off. Owner Jennifer Walsh said the money will help her cover a loan she needed to take out, and also to cover the employee salaries she continued to pay during the closure. “If I can pay my workers they are going to leave and find something else. When things come around, I need those workers to stay, so a lot of the debt was created because I had to keep my staff available and to keep them available they have to pay their own rent,” she said. Scott Hansen with Wells Fargo Wealth Management said small business stability is vital to the area. “Small business in any community, you are the heart of that community both socially and economically and when you see a small business struggling, the community is struggling.” On Santa Claus Lane, Rowan Boutique owner Gina Chadbourne said “we had lost revenue. I had been evacuated. I live in Ventura and it was very tough.” To survive she took clothing from the store and did pop up sales elsewhere with invites to customers and friends. “I know it was crazy but I did whatever it took,” she said. Chadbourne says the grant will help to pay off a debt and grown the business. Other financial help is available but not always easy according to Marsha Bailey with Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV). She helped to coordinate the grant requests. When it comes to Small Business Administration Loans she says, “only a third of the people who applied for them in our two counties (received them.)” Bailey says the impacts went on much longer than the business owners expected. Wells Fargo says it will be committing more grants in the area of the recent disaster – the Woolsey fire.

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