HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES
CASE is the California Small Enterprise Task Force, a group of California residents and volunteers from diverse backgrounds and organizations in the public, academic, and nonprofit sectors who came together following the outbreak of the pandemic to address the needs of small businesses in California that have been negatively impacted – particularly those businesses owned by individuals in California’s most vulnerable communities.
The goal of CASE since inception has been to serve the pressing needs of small business owners for access to financial resources – grants and affordable credit – and for advice and technical assistance on how to navigate this period of extreme uncertainty.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
When California’s economy abruptly shuttered as a result of COVID-19, a group of concerned California citizens quickly realized the impending and catastrophic impact that shelter-in-place would have on small businesses. As the economic shut-down continued, this group also realized that the micro-businesses in our most disadvantaged communities would not benefit sufficiently (if at all) from federal aid packages.
The CASE Task Force evolved from a series of conversations initially with individuals who were deeply concerned about the negative economic consequences of COVID-19 on small businesses. The founding members of the task force, including All Home, Berkeley Center for Law and Business, Morrison & Foerster, and KD Venture Partners, were intentional in recruiting additional members from different backgrounds. The criteria for membership were relatively simple: (a) sector representation, (b) a valuable skill and willingness to roll up his or her sleeves for free, and (c) no ego.
CASE task force members leveraged their networks (particularly the associate base at Morrison & Foerster and the team at the Berkeley Center for Law and Business to develop the free resource guide and free weekly office hours with legal experts. All Home took a leadership role in serving as the pro bono client and supporting the development of the guide and other resources.
Once those resources were up and running, CASE turned its attention to the capital access gap. The number one reason that businesses have had to shut down permanently during the pandemic is that they did not have sufficient cash to stay open. This is particularly true of businesses in low-income communities that do not have networks or relationships with wealth to fall back on. CDFIs, started in the 1970s and supported by federal funding since 1994, were designed to help address the type of crisis that small businesses are currently facing. Their mandate is to deliver responsible, affordable lending to low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities.