An advocacy group along a stretch of East Colfax in Denver launched a relief fund on Thursday for small businesses — many of which are owned by women, immigrants and refugees — that have been shut down or financially hurt since the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Members of the East Colfax Community Collective say that because many of their members have run into problems securing emergency funding from the city and federal government they are launching a donation fund to help keep fellow businesses afloat.
“We haven’t been working for months and we were promised by the government that we would get stimulus money to keep these businesses going,” Rosalyne Redwine, owner of Winning Coiffures salon, said on a call with the news media.
Redwine applied for assistance through Denver’s relief program and wasn’t approved, which she said was “discouraging.” The pandemic has not only affected her business, she said, but also her family members whom she is struggled to support without income.
There are over 200 small businesses along the stretch of East Colfax from Yosemite Street to Colorado Boulevard represented by the Collective.
“Colfax is a place where I’ve been able to thrive and make a decent living for my family,” Redwine said.
Collective co-founder Brendan Greene cited the Center for Responsible Lending’s findings that 75-95% of minority-owned businesses don’t have a good chance of receiving federal forgivable emergency loans because they don’t have entrenched relationships with lenders.
“This is definitely the experience we have seen in the East Colfax corridor, and why business leaders are taking power back into their own hands and launching this independent grassroots fund,” Greene said.
LaKeshia Hodge, owner of DIY BeautyMat Salon, said her business was only open for five months before the pandemic shut it down. Now, she said, she doesn’t have the money to cover her rent and utilities and is worried that opening the salon will only increase her financial burden.
“We’re required to have all these safety measures in place that cost money,” Hodge said. “And without funding we can’t abide by those laws and we’re taking a risk again of receiving fines or possibly being shut down.”
Hodge said the process to apply for the City and County of Denver’s relief program is not user-friendly and that many members of the Collective – including people she described as not being “technically savvy” – have not been approved for loans and grants.
Denver launched its $4 million small business relief program on March 19 and is still accepting applications. The first round of loans for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — a part of the first federal coronavirus stimulus bill designed to give businesses with under 500 employees a forgivable loan for 2.5 times their average monthly payroll — was used up by April 16. The program was mired in both technical difficulties and misuse by large companies that received millions of dollars, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Another $320 billion was added to the program on April 24, and officials temporarily blocked access to the second round of the program for large banks who were reportedly lending to the large companies.
Greene and other Collective members said the fund will be managed by a committee that will direct donations to businesses that are in the most need in East Colfax. The Collective’s GoFundMe can be found here.