San Jose has opened its next wave of grants for small businesses to pay off their rent debts accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small business owners can now apply for grants of up to $15,000 to help pay off the back rent they owe to commercial landlords. San Jose opened applications for the grants last week, which will remain available until April 30. To qualify for the program, a business had to be open prior to March 24, 2020, have fewer than 10 employees and be located in a commercial building in San Jose.

“It can make the difference between (a) business being able to meet its debts or failing,” Vic Farlie, an analyst with San Jose’s economic development department, told San Jose Spotlight. “If you’re a small business, cash flow is very important to you, and so a grant toward your rent debt can be a really important way to protect your business.”

The city’s last wave of grant applications for rent relief ended in July. In that last phase, the city received more than 200 applications, according to Carlos Velazquez, spokesperson for the city economic development department. San Jose now has $1.8 million for this next phase of grants, which will be issued as soon as the end of this month.

Velazquez said during the last grant phase, the city issued $530,000 to 103 businesses. He said since the start of the pandemic, San Jose has awarded $6 million in grants to 499 small businesses, all owned by low- to moderate-income individuals and many being San Jose residents of color.

“Our business development team has canvassed hundreds of small businesses in San Jose and relied on personal stories and anecdotes, as well as input from the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force to inform this need for rent relief,” Velazquez told San Jose Spotlight. “The city continues to support landlords and tenants to reach agreement on back rent and avoid the cost and problems that follow eviction.”

As a former small business owner, Farlie understands the importance these grants have toward stabilizing a company’s finances. But helping small businesses remain stable benefits the city as well, he said.

“From a city point of view, we want to try to protect the property market. We don’t want to see evictions, and we do want to see landlords be able to maintain good income and good tenants,” Farlie said. “It’s a win-win.”

Business owners can go online to submit an application, which is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Business owners can also apply in person at the Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center office at 1887 Monterey Road in San Jose, or by calling (408) 385-9800.

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