LA County Goes to Bat for Small Business

Left to Right: Byeong Seong Lee and his son, Chan Lee, at the family owned Rex’s Baseball Batting Cage in Athens. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

Since 1978, Rex’s Baseball Batting Cage has been a community staple for the West Athens area. The 18,295 square foot outdoor batting cage provides an opportunity for residents to keep their baseball skills sharp by practicing their swing on its baseball and softball pitching machines. However, like so many other businesses in the face of COVID-19 and “Safe at Home” orders that shut down all non-essential business, it faced immediate, existential challenges to stay in business over the last two months.

“Before COVID-19, we were just getting into the baseball season,” said Chan Lee, Co-Owner of Rex’s Baseball Batting Cage, who has been running the family owned business with his father since he purchased it in 2005. “It was a very difficult two months with a lot of uncertainty.”

It was during this time, Lee learned about the Los Angeles County Small Business Recovery Loan Program which provides loans for small businesses to help cover operating expenses so that they are able to survive during this difficult moment. The program focused on small businesses with twenty or less employees in unincorporated areas of the county, and provided up to $20,000 in loans, making it possible to keep their doors open. While the program is currently closed for new applications, additional funding will become available late summer or early fall.

“The County of Los Angeles has stepped up to the plate to make sure that small businesses reopen,” said LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been a champion for small businesses authoring a motion to provide resources.  “But that is no substitute for the foot traffic that makes small businesses thrive. When they thrive, our communities thrive.”

“This loan helped us catch up on our bills.  It helped us keep the lights on and open back up,” said Lee at Rex’s Baseball Batting Cage during its first month back open.  “Glad to be able to open back up for the community.”

Statement on LA County’s Economic Resiliency Task Force

“The events of this past week, and underlying tensions, have made the work of the Economic Resiliency Task Force all that more critical and albeit challenging.

“We must do all that we can to move forward safely but with a sense of urgency and equity to allow businesses to reopen and for employees to return to work.This means also focusing recovery strategies that address the inequities that have been long endured by disadvantaged communities and communities of color. For instance, I am pleased to see that hair salons and barbershops were recently allowed to reopen. It makes a huge difference economically and culturally. Small. Business. Matters.

“Providing a path forward to meaningful employment, family sustaining employment, is necessary if we are to be successful in the work that must be done to restore trust and faith in government at all levels. This work, this Task Force is both timely and critical given our unemployment rate of more than 20%, four percentage points higher than the rate for the State, with projections that our unemployment rate could exceed 30%.

“While there have been jobs losses across the board, the most significant impact has been on low-wage jobs in the retail, food service, entertainment and hospitality sectors. Much of what we witnessed this past weekend was a reflection of the disparity that exists in communities of color.

“However, here, is where we have a duty, and opportunity, to take advantage of growth sectors and new markets created by a post-COVID reality. Manufacturing will be looked at with renewed interest as we consider onshoring many operations that moved overseas in search of cheaper labor. Bioscience is expected to see significant new investment. We must expand training opportunities to make sure Angelenos are equipped to take advantage of the opportunities this sector has to offer.

“There is a bright future ahead for Los Angeles, and that future that begins here with all of us working together for greater prosperity that is shared by all the residents of LA County. That future begins here with all of us working together for greater prosperity by ALL.”

Statement on Metro Budget and Cost Control Efforts

Metro construction at the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

“Due to a Board with an expansive vision and an agency motivated to deliver, we have found ourselves in a position to advance projects years before the commitment made to voters when they passed Measure M. The work to do so over the past few years has been audacious, driven by a reality that the infrastructure and transportation needs are significant in all corners of this region. I have long advanced a regional, rational, and equitable transportation policy at Metro.

“But this moment rightly forces us to reevaluate. First and foremost, our commitment must continue to be on delivering Measure M projects where and when they were promised. Then, this crisis should motivate us all – including our industry partners – to do some belt tightening.

“Investing in infrastructure has historically been the ticket to restarting the economy, and we should exhaust efforts to drive that scenario now. These efforts should be guided by unprecedented innovation and resourcefulness. This is a new reality, and we must be guided accordingly.”

LA County Announces New Countywide Economic Recovery Task Force

Amid the pandemic, Los Angeles County is making an unprecedented effort to assist small businesses and individuals experiencing financial hardships. In direct response to the COVID-19 economic challenges, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion co-authored by Supervisors Barger and Solis to establish the Economic Recovery Task Force that would design, coordinate and execute a Comprehensive Economic Recovery Plan.

“We know long after this virus is gone, the economic damage will remain. We need to understand the full financial impact that this disease has had on our economy in order to form a suitable response,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We will research, refocus and rebuild to come out of this stronger.”

The objective of this plan is to set forth viable strategies that prepare the region for renewed growth and prosperity throughout the County. The Task Force will be required to report back with applicable ideas and proposals, within a span of 90 days. The Task Force will be a working group of economic development practitioners and experts from business, government, labor, academia, and all five members of the Board. Recently, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas sent a letter to the Chief Executive Office detailing his primary objectives and focus around The Task Force.

“We need to acquire the experience and expertise needed for charting a path forward – ensuring that future prosperity is accessible and shared by all communities,” commented Ridley-Thomas.

The County has already begun to provide technical assistance to help small businesses access state and federal funds that are being made available to abate the impact of the crisis. Several efforts at the County and State level have been implemented to assist businesses and workers at this time. These efforts include: the Employer Assistance Grant Fund program, the L.A. County Worker and Business Disaster Help Center and the Small Business Relief Fund – all established by The Board of Supervisors in conjunction with the Department of Workforce Development, Aging, and Community Services (WDACS) and the Departments of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA).

For more information about how to access available funds and updates on the items listed above, please visit: lacountyhelpcenter.org or call 833-238-4450.

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Los Angeles County’s 2020-2021 Proposed Budget

“After more than a decade of economic growth, we have diligently built up the County’s reserves to prepare for the next economic downturn, but the sudden and nearly complete shutdown of economic activity across all industries due to the coronavirus pandemic has confronted the County with an unprecedented challenge.

The Recommended Budget was prepared with the prospect of a 2020 recession in mind. It used conservative growth projections and made financial commitments that were well within what the County could afford.

“The County is now facing a budget shortfall that is currently projected to amount to a two-billion-dollar loss in revenues over the current and upcoming fiscal year. Revenues that we budgeted for will not be coming in, and at the same time, we are incurring extensive costs to keep people safe from this pandemic.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be profound.

“The Recommended Budget will be revised, and we are meeting this challenge by setting a plan in motion to immediately reduce expenditures, while maintaining high-quality services that benefit the well-being of Los Angeles County’s 10 million residents, including the most vulnerable and underserved.

“We are committed to get through this together.”