City Leaders Roll Out Plan to Boost Businesses in East San Jose Hit Hard by COVID-19

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The pandemic ravaged the economy and few places were hit harder than minority communities.

City leaders rolled out a plan to boost business in East San Jose Friday, but some key leaders in that still-struggling community say the plan is political window dressing at best.

Toby Lopez spent the last year struggling to keep his restaurant open -- having to let several employees go in the process.

"Last year we let go like six people,” he said. 

And he's not alone. But help may be on the way.

Local small business leaders are joining with councilmember Magdalena Carrasco's office in an attempt to raise $10 million to help local businesses stay afloat.

"For that to happen, we must ensure that every San Josean, especially those that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID, are supported in their efforts to grow their business and to keep it alive,” said Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, president of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley.

The plan would also create a position dedicated to helping local businesses there but, "I think it's about a year and a half too late, and absolutely not enough money," said Ronaldo Bonilla.

The San Jose planning commissioner, a COVID survivor, who has been a champion for the struggling east side since the pandemic began, says the plan comes up short.

"If you walk up and down the Alum Rock corridor, White Road, and you talk to any one of those businesses, those that are still here, they will tell you that they've been here holding on for their lives,” he said.

Bonilla says if the city wanted to help it could have joined the East Side COVID relief fund that’s been trying to help for months and that this new proposal is more about rescuing political reputations, than businesses.

Meanwhile, Lopez said he doesn’t care where the help comes from as long as it gets to Toby’s Kitchen soon. 

The group says it will present the plan to a budget hearing on Monday, with hopes for the San Jose City Council to vote on Tuesday.

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