The novel coronavirus has forced many shops to shutter their doors or comply with new state rules to remain open, such as offering outdoor dining or online shopping with curbside pickup. A record number of business owners are also turning to UC Merced’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for economic support and business advice.
Like many places, the Central California SBDC, which has been hosted by UC Merced since 2003, has been closed since March 19 and all services are currently being provided remotely, mostly through Zoom and webinars. While operations will most likely remain remote through 2020, that hasn’t stopped the Center from fulfilling its mission of helping local businesses.
On May 1, UC Merced received $2.5 million in additional funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The SBDC has begun distributing approximately $1.8 million of that funding to its six service centers in the network so they can expand services to small businesses negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus.
“The CARES funding has been instrumental in allowing us to serve our local businesses during a really critical time,” SBDC Director Kurtis Clark said. “We’ve had an astounding increase in the number of clients seeking our help during this unprecedented time and it has been our mission to help them in whatever way we can.”
The Center expanded its online trainings and has seen an uptick in attendance. Overall, network-wide activity between March 1 and May 31 rose across the board compared to 2019. For instance, the number of new clients and those seeking counseling each jumped roughly four-fold.
Below is a breakdown of network-wide activity from March 1 through May 31 compared to the same period last year:
- Total number of counseling clients served: 2,933 vs. 974
- Total new clients served:1,423 vs. 291
- Total number of counseling hours provided: 9,294 vs. 2,883
- Number of small businesses assisted that secured funding: 596 vs. 77
- Total amount of funding secured by SBDC clients: $57,485,332 vs. $9,130,525
- Total number of webinars/training events offered: 250 vs. 100
- Total number of webinars/training attendees: 9,525 vs. 2,829