How Latinx Small Business Owners Have Been Affected by COVID

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The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative surveyed Latinx owned businesses across the country. The results showed how 86 percent of Latinx business owners reported an immediate and significantly large negative impact due to COVID-19.

Small businesses produce about 50 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States. The biggest positive impact that small businesses have is that they create new jobs for Americans. According to the 2018 Annual Business Survey (ABS) from the census, there are approximately 1.1 million businesses owned by minorities in the United States, with about 322 thousand businesses that are owned by Latinx people. Out of all the businesses in Oregon, 89 percent are small businesses. 

“They are enduring the heaviest brunt of the pandemic,” said Juan Carlos Gonzales, director at Centro Cultural, a non-profit dedicated to serving the Latinx population in Cornelius, Oregon. It has officially been one year since the pandemic forced the world into a strict lockdown and the Latinx community has been heavily impacted.

Oregon’s Latinx population is 12 percent and many people in the Latinx community hold some of the most essential work positions or small businesses that go unnoticed, and yet are still facing issues that affected even them before the pandemic. Out of the 12 percent of Latinx people in Oregon, five percent started or own their own business.  A recent survey conducted by Travel Oregon, Business Oregon and the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network shows that about 40 percent of small businesses are temporarily closed while 2 percent have permanently closed.

“That is sad. There’s a lot of places you knew were there and you drive by and you’re like, damn,” said Andrea Espinoza, owner of multiple Accident Care clinics in Oregon, including one two minutes down the street from Pacific’s Hillsboro campus. Accident Care is a chiropractic clinic that offers clients a variety of options to help with physical injuries and opened in 2015. “We were lucky to survive this.”

The Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) is a loan distributed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to COVID-19. This loan really helped businesses stay stable when they were getting little to no revenue.

“Those were really hard to get,” said Leydi Meza, owner of Oregon Design Specialist (ODS) in Beaverton, Oregon, who’s main income came from sports, “It’s harder to get funds.” She talks about how being a person of color owned business has led to obstacles in getting loans and funds for her business. Seeing how white owned businesses get loans easier and quicker makes black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) owners feel discriminated against, and the pandemic has highlighted these situations even more now.

“I think the pandemic just really helped bring it to the forefront of conversation,” said Jessica Monje-Perez of  Association of Latinx and Ally Students (ALAS) at Pacific University and Centro Cultural in Cornelius. “I’m not surprised. When things like this happen it’s usually people of color and people that are low income who are really affected.”

  One business that did not qualify for the PPP loan is TW Thelins Autobody Shop in Cornelius, Oregon.

TW Thelins Auto Shop was taken over by Espinoza in 2015. Before him, the shop was run by mainly white people and did not have much of a diverse clientele. This affected Espinoza because he lost about 50 percent of the total clients they had before he took over, and over the years they have slowly increased their audience. Then COVID-19 hit and cut that in half, again.

“We lost about 50 percent of our clients (Translated),” said Miguel Espinoza, owner of the auto body shop. “That’s because everyone stopped driving. Since there were no cars on the street, there were no more accidents. (Translated)” This created another domino effect, just like how the domino effect hurt Meza’s business (Oregon Design Specialist). Although less car accidents is generally a good thing, the lack of cars on the streets meant a lack of cars in the shop, specifically TW Thelins. Like ODS and Accident Care, TW Thelins had to let most of their employees go. 

Less car accidents meant less cars to work on in this shop but also injuries, which in turn meant less clients to seek out Accident Care. The chiropractic clinic also treats clients who have suffered sport related injuries, but since sports were cancelled, those clients fell short, as well. When sports cancelled all their seasons, Oregon Design Specialists lost their biggest income because that’s their main demographic. This is a visual representation of how small businesses essentially run society, they are the underdog of the economy and have really been hurt financially by the domino effect that this pandemic has caused.

Oregon Design Specialist, Accident Care, and TW Thelines Autobody Shop have shown the importance of small businesses in not only the economy, but also in the local community. “I feel like there wasn’t a lot of information given to businesses. I did a lot of research to be able to find some of these [grants and loans],” said Leydi Meza of ODS. All three companies support other local businesses as well. They express the importance of the support needed from each other, the community, and the government. — Ashley Meza

Photo: Oregon Design Specialist in Beaverton, OR (Ashley Meza)


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