South San Francisco officials approved $430,000 in financial aid for local businesses struggling to survive in the wake of the shutdown ordered to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The South San Francisco City Council unanimously approved a program financed with local and federal money which will be available to select businesses operating within city limits.

The program mirrors many others established across the county as officials scramble to support small and independent retailers coping with the loss of business in the wake of the stay-at-home order.

Mayor Rich Garbarino said officials felt compelled to approve the program Wednesday, April 22, with hopes of propping up an injured industry.

“Anything we can do to help and assist our small businesses, we felt duty bound to do,” he said.

South San Francisco businesses will be eligible to apply for the funding as a loan, which can quickly be converted to a grant. Because nearly half of the $430,000 sum is drawn from federal sources, officials were obligated to launch the service as a loan program.

Funding will be offered in three stages and businesses can apply in May, June and July. Companies which adhere to select criteria will be entered into a lottery, and a few dozen will be picked to receive funding. Officials felt the lottery system would be the most equitable.

In an attempt to set reasonable expectations, Vice Mayor Mike Addiego noted only roughly 50 businesses would likely receive a portion of the money — a small segment of the approximately 4,500 businesses in South San Francisco.

Businesses must have been in operation for at least three years to be eligible to receive the money. Officials had initially proposed one year, but Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto felt that was an insufficient amount of time.

Officials noted the city’s contribution would likely not be enough to sustain a business, but hoped that it would be helpful in bridging a gap until state or federal money is available.

For his part, Garbarino expressed some dismay that more could not be done, but he noted the fiscal constraints of the city’s budget.

“I wish it could be more,” he said. “But there is only so much in the bucket, and there are so many buckets.”

He also noted the dire situation faced by small businesses, both locally and abroad.

“I’m so sad to probably see not just in South San Francisco but nationwide, so many small business won’t be successful. They just won’t survive,” he said.

But he illustrated the obligation felt by officials to offer any lifeline available to those struggling through a unique and challenging period.

“We just felt it was the right thing to do,” he said.

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