Reno Relief Fund Helps Address COVID Loan Mismatch

When Allie Salas realized she was $ 15,000 behind on her rent for space used for her gym, Reno Aspire Fitness, she knew she had to make sacrifices.

Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered businesses to shut down statewide as the pandemic struck in March, and gyms were one of the first to close.

“I couldn’t make ends meet and so my rent piled up,” Salas said, adding that she was paying $ 4,000 per month. over my head. “

From USA Today:‘Fear of the future’: Women small business owners face additional hurdles during pandemic shutdowns

So, although she had already bought a dress and booked a room, Salas postponed her October wedding and applied for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The application process was difficult, she said, because as a new business owner, she did not have the financial statements to apply.

She was refused.

According to a House committee report released in October, the paycheck protection program left behind many women-owned and minority-owned businesses as banks prioritized loans to customers.

Kelly Northridge, Managing Partner of the Audacity Institute – a Reno-based non-profit organization that financially assists local women-owned and minority businesses – conducted an analysis of PPP loans in the Reno area.

Related:Black, Latin and immigrant mothers lose jobs as COVID-19 child care crisis worsens

The study found that 14% of the loans went to black-owned or Hispanic-owned businesses. Only 26 percent went to women-owned businesses.

“Locally, over 51% of our businesses are owned by women and minorities,” Northridge said. “These businesses not having access to these relief efforts, we are seeing them shut down at an exponentially higher rate.

“So that really brought to light the systemic biases that unfortunately exist and the lack of access to some of these programs.”

Northridge described the results as shocking.

“When we look at applications that require years of financial statements by an accountant, small businesses don’t have access to them,” she said. “It’s not necessarily something that they are able to provide.”

Coronavirus relief:Sisolak Signs Bill To Give $ 50 Million To Small Business Aid Fund, Doubling In Size

Help Reno businesses

Danielle Rees, also a managing partner at the Audacity Institute, said many small business owners, especially women and people of color, have difficulty obtaining financial assistance.

The Audacity Institute was established in 2018 to support women-owned and minority-owned businesses. Rees and Northridge said they will soon have a directory of women and minorities businesses on the organization’s website. The hope is to motivate residents to support local businesses.

“The pandemic has definitely shown some light on the disparities,” Northridge said. “There have been statistics for a long time, but they haven’t really been visible to a lot of people.

“So when the PPP came out, 90% of the PPP loans (at the national level) went to white-owned businesses and generally to businesses owned by larger companies,” she said. “A small percentage has gone to women and minority-owned businesses.”

At the end of last year, The Audacity Institute has partnered with city officials to create the Town of Reno Small Business Support Fund for minority and women owned businesses.

“The focus was on underrepresented business owners who needed this extra support, and a large majority of them were Latinos,” said Oscar Delgado, Reno advisor.

Related:Sisolak says Nevada will start reverting to ‘pre-pause’ pandemic restrictions from Monday

He urged other city council members to allocate $ 2 million from CARES law funding to the city’s small business fund.

“A lot of these businesses reside in my neighborhood,” Delgado said. “It was important to see these businesses stay open.”

The Audacity Institute took the lead in raising awareness and selecting business owners who applied for the fund.

The organization has also translated the application process into Spanish and set up a bilingual phone line to help applicants apply. Bilingual representatives also personally visited the companies to inform them of the relief fund.

The relief fund operated as a grant. Rees said the organization, along with the city, was able to fund 187 local businesses – 81% and 55% were owned by women and minorities, respectively.

After:Sisolak Signs Bill To Give $ 50 Million To Small Business Aid Fund, Doubling In Size

The average amount awarded was $ 10,747.

“We had $ 2 million in CARES law funding to administer, but we actually have $ 6.8 million in funding requests from these local women and minority-owned businesses,” Rees said.

The application process for the city’s relief fund has since been closed. Still, Rees and Northridge have received requests for help from local business owners.

Rees said the Audacity Institute recently launched a campaign, Audacity Fund Reno, to close the nearly $ 5 million gap.

“There are women-owned and minority-owned businesses here in Reno and they need our support,” Rees said.

Surviving COVID-19

Reno Aspire Fitness, February 18, 2021. Women and minority business owners continue to struggle amid the pandemic.

Salas worked as a personal trainer for five years. She wanted to open her own gym after hearing from her clients how she inspired them.

“I’ve coached at different places here in Reno, and I’ve never seen an environment where you can feel fully at home, where you’re not being judged,” said Salas. “I wanted to create something really welcoming.”

She opened her gym three years ago. It is now on Moana Lane, just off the freeway near the Ashley furniture store. Her father, a former construction worker, did all of the flooring and painting – which would have cost $ 20,000 through a contractor, Allie said.

“My father put his blood, sweat and tears here,” she says.

Her mom also helped her buy gym equipment and even spent around $ 1,000 on a squat rack. She also bought her two stationary bikes.

A customer also donated 10 skipping ropes, Salas said

“Sparks High School donated all of the boxes in their gym that they no longer needed,” she said. “There were a lot of donations, and I just had to find my way to get what I needed.”

Her fiancé also invested in her business and even withdrew funds from her 401K.

So when the pandemic hit, Salas said she had to figure out how to keep track of her finances. She said the PPP loan application process was difficult for her.

“I realized I had to step it up and make it work, do it, do it, do it,” she said, adding that she had promised her clients that she would do whatever. she could to keep her gym open.

“I felt really horrible and unprofessional not having these documents for these applications,” Salas said when she was initially denied a loan. “I almost felt like I wasn’t qualified.”

She started an online course and occasionally posted live videos to YouTube. She offered lessons to children. She also rented her equipment to her clients.

“I spent the whole of last year without getting any grants or loans,” she said.

Allie Salas, owner of Reno Aspire Fitness, is hosting her medicine balls in her gym on February 18, 2021. Women and minority business owners continue to struggle amid the pandemic.

In December, she truly believed she should shut down. But in January, she finally received $ 15,000 from the city’s relief fund. She also applied for a PPP loan a second time and received an additional $ 10,000.

“I was really, really blown away,” she said.

Salas said the funding will be used to pay off his rent and buy new equipment. She said she believed there were other women still struggling to keep their small businesses afloat.

Salas, a Latina, said most of her clients were Latinas as well.

“I know that not many people speak and understand English,” she said. “I think these barriers are definitely on the way.

“Looking at how much we’ve invested in it, I don’t want to go away now,” Salas said later. “I feel like I’m starting something. We have sacrificed a lot.

How to help:

You can help local business owners by donating to Audacity Fund Reno online at Donations are tax deductible.

Marcella Corona is a journalist covering underrepresented local communities in northern Nevada.Support his work by subscribing to

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