Since 2008 Ernesto Garcia’s food cart has served hungry Yale hospital workers and university students. Four weeks after reopening, he says the streets are quiet.
“Right now, we’re doing maybe 50% of our sales,” said Garcia.
He says the lack of students has hurt and business overall is down. Back in 2012, he used the profits from his successful cart to open Rubamba Latin Gourmet on High Street. Now he’s trying to keep the doors open even if few people come in.
“We just opened the dining room, the dining room has been very bad,” said Garcia. “Like sometimes we have one table, two tables maximum.”
Without outdoor patio space, they’ve only offered to-go foods during the pandemic before dine-in was allowed in June.
He says the bills are mounting.
“To be honest I’m not making money right now.”
He says he applied for financial help from the state but hasn’t heard back. He’s one of many businesses struggling as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on. Some have even closed.
Tuesday, state and local officials announced a new loan program to offer a lifeline to women and minority-owned businesses in New Haven and the Valley. Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz says the local loans will help those who couldn’t get help with PPP loans.
“The businesses that were able to work with their bankers, their accountants, their lawyers were the ones that got the big loans and got the loans the quickest,” said Bysiewicz. “And left behind were the smallest of businesses that maybe didn’t have all of their expenses in QuickBooks. Or their last tax return.”
“This gives them the opportunity to have a way to support their payroll, support their, property, their rent, so they can be sustainable,” said Kim Hawkins, vice president and COO of HEDCO.
A total $1.5 million is now available to those business owners with fewer than 20 employees and that have 51% women or minority ownership.
“Sadly, so many women-owned businesses and women workers have been left behind in COVID,” says Bysiewicz.
She says women make up 50% of the workforce, and they are 60% of the population now out of work. The loans are to help struggling business owners get back on their feet.
“Down the road we will have normal economic times again, but we need to support these businesses that are living on a shoestring to get through this period. And this will help do that,” says New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
Garcia says he’s glad the loans are available for New Haven business owners, as he struggles to keep up with the mounting bills for his restaurant.
“I’m definitely looking for some support.”