Leading organizations in Los Angeles call for additional collaboration to address COVID-19 and future pandemics

From the moment the first round of Safer at Home orders were announced in March 2020, Los Angeles business, civic, philanthropic and government leaders mobilized rapidly to save the county’s hundreds of thousands of small businesses, microenterprises and even community serving non-profits and their millions of employees from potential financial ruin. An initial study highlighting the unprecedented response, and noting the importance of communication, coordination and collaboration amongst these leading Los Angeles institutions to manage a crisis of this scale in the nation’s most populous county, has been compiled and released by Virginia-based Institute for Sustainable Development.

First Report on LA’s COVID-19 Small Business Response aims to spread best practices on what types of support are helping small businesses the most so that those best practices can be replicated and supported with further collaboration from the public and private sector.

The report finds that Los Angeles County, Los Angeles City, and leading economic and civic institutions have led the single largest metropolitan response in the country – awarding over $204 million in grants and loans to stabilize small businesses, micro-enterprises and nonprofits across the county. In addition, area responders have provided valuable technical assistance, training, capacity building, trouble-shooting and other valuable services to help thousands of small enterprises reinvent themselves to remain viable in the face of the pandemic.

“Small businesses have been very hard hit across the country because of COVID-19,” Stephen Jordan, CEO of Institute Sustainable Development (ISD) said, “While the challenges are massive, Los Angeles area economic responders have stepped up, and they are continuing to build important and valuable support systems that should help significantly in the tough months ahead.”

The report highlights key challenges affecting the response and recovery in the first eight months of the pandemic. The unemployment high point in L.A. County reached 21.1 percent in May and more than 715,000 jobs were lost to the pandemic at the peak. As of October, the unemployment rate is 12.3%, down an impressive 42% from the peak, but still historically high.

Further, the report offers key learnings for responding to the needs of small businesses in future crises, including:

• It is important to build on positive initiatives to strengthen trust-building, information sharing, communication, coordination, division of labor and resource mobilization among Los Angeles area economic recovery and resilience providers.

• You cannot talk about recovery, until you define stabilization and integrate science and technical best practices with emotional and social support.

• Capacity-building needs to continue to take place at multiple levels, including working with community organizations working with minority business associations, Business Improvement Districts, and other neighborhood business groups.

• Capital assets and venture capital for minority, Black, and women-owned enterprises and for Latinx businesses need to continue to be developed – not just in terms of helping entrepreneurs and start-ups, but also helping small businesses to acquire technology and scale.

• Small business recovery and resilience service providers need to be sensitive about the user experience in working with them, especially for the many small businesses with minimal technology/internet skills. Tools that simplify and reduce frustration with the process like the development of a common application that can be used by multiple organizations would be very helpful.

“At Wells Fargo, we felt the need to support a report that would provide insight to key learnings to navigate a pandemic, especially for those businesses most adversely impacted,” said Gregg Sherkin, Senior Vice President Wells Fargo Social Impact & Sustainability. “With commitments to small businesses through our local foundation and the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund, we continue to provide valuable funding and other critical resources to support LA County business owners as they work to keep their doors open, retain employees and rebuild.”

Information for this article was provided by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at

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