SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The economic collapse during the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many businesses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13.6 million Americans are unemployed. That’s down from April’s 23.1 million.
Yelp reported as of July 10, 132,500 businesses that use their site to list their business closed. 72,842 of those businesses, or about 55%, have closed permanently. Those closures have hit the hardest in California. Yelp shows 29,400 businesses have closed in the Golden State during the pandemic. 14,100 of those businesses list their closure as permanent.
Greater Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce co-president, Jacqueline Inda, said their business members have been hit disproportionally harder than others in Santa Barbara. One iconic business that fell during the pandemic is Studio Pinedo Photography & Video.
Armando Vargas owns Torresanta Insurance. He too is struggling to stay open.
"We're waiting for the vaccine to make sure everything goes back to normal," said Vargas.
Vargas and Jose Pinedo, owner of Studio Pinedo, are eager for business to go back to the way it was before the pandemic. Vargas says his insurance company can make it to the end of the year, but probably not longer. And Pinedo closed his photography and video studio after 40 years. but hopes he can reopen after the pandemic.
"I don't have any money to pay the rent," said Pinedo. "And I don't have any customers for pay, to pay the money to make the rent."
Greater Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce co-president, Jacqueline Inda, said Vargas and Pinedo are like most Hispanic business owners in Santa Barbara, struggling or closed. She said there needs to be more outreach from the city and county.
"For them to receive the information of the grants that are available within those cities, they haven't," said Inda. The discrepancy in providing that information and getting connected with those businesses."
Pinedo applied for a small business loan four months ago, but is still waiting. Vargas didn't even apply.
"No. No from the city," said Vargas. "Everybody I see on the news or the grants that the government give to businesses, but I didn't apply for it."
Now the Hispanic chamber is hoping to find entrepreneurs or available grant money and connect that with business owners who need the funds to survive.