Walden Pond Books, Gaylord’s Ice Creamery, and more well-known small businesses are suffering and closing due to the necessary shelter-in-place policies installed to combat the Global Pandemic. There are scores of GoFundMe campaigns to help these institutions survive, but not a peep from the Oakland Office of Economic Development, save for a pop-gun program of laughable size.
If you’re reading this, and thinking, “well, that’s the way it is”, aside from the fact that your attitude is contributing to Oakland Government’s overall inaction, the fact is, there’s a lot a truly working local government can do. Here’s what a good, ready, and willing Oakland Office of Economic Development. Can do:
1) Establish A Virtual Office Of Emergency Economic Assistance
The Mayor of Oakland and the Oakland Chief Administrative Officer should draw up a resolution to start an Oakland Office Of Emergency Economic Assistance. The office would be funded via budget adjustments and federal government assistance via lobbying to reach a level of $100 million in funding. Its first priority would be to get micro-grants of $300 to every one of the 150,000 Oakland households. The only proof of signup would be a valid drivers license or identification card with an Oakland address.
Once the application is in the system, and providing either direct deposit, mail to a place, or special pick-up zones and dates, that money would be distributed – once per household. The reason for this is simple: to get emergency cash to Oaklanders, and not put them through the stress of worrying about filling taxes or loan applications. Assuming there are 150,000 households, that would come to $45 million. Any level of unclaimed funds would be distributed to Oakland’s homeless on a per-person basis – and with the same pick-up zone and date method.
The second phase of the program focuses on using the second $45 million on a case-by-case, per small business basis. There would be a set-aside of $5 million that would go to up to 60 qualified small businesses in Oakland that are in any one of the nine Oakland Business Improvement Districts, and in grants of up to $100,000. Ideally, that would take in known restaurants and retail establishments, and on a first-come, first-served basis.
The remaining $40 million would be used for a small business grant program not to go over $2,000 per small business, thus helping the many business concerns that are set up in homes in Oakland.
The organization would also focus on writing legislation both at the state and federal level to continue to form new sources of small business economic development assistance.
The point is, this would be a proactive way to keep Oakland going. In fact, it just might as well have its own hashtag: #KeepOaklandGoing
As to what 2) is, there’s is no 2), if we do 1): #KeepOaklandGoing
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