Help center created for businesses, workers affected by coronavirus – Daily News

on Mar28
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Where can I get a loan to keep my businesses afloat? Which public health orders apply to my shop? How do I file an unemployment insurance claim?

A newly created help center will answer the myriad questions Los Angeles County businesses and workers are asking as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the region’s economy.  

Two county departments have partnered to create a website and call center for business owners and employees who have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis.

The L.A. County Business and Worker Disaster Help Center ( offers free one-on-one counseling and support for businesses struggling to keep their doors open and for workers wondering about their next paycheck. The call center number is 833-238-4450.

“The county and our cities have been inundated with calls from business owners and workers trying to find out what is available for them with disaster loans,” said Joe Nicchitta, director of Consumer and Business Affairs. “Unemployment insurance is another common question.”

Shifting priorities

Nicchitta’s agency is typically staffed by 150 workers, but another 40 have been added to keep pace with the demand.

“We’re trying to make this as easy as possible,” Nicchitta said. “We’ve borrowed staff from all over the county and the help center is being funded through existing resources. We’re just shifting priorities.”

The center, with support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, is designed to help businesses comply with public health orders and gain access to a variety of financial resources, including relief packages from state and federal agencies.

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said mom-and-pop businesses are facing serious financial distress.

“The help center will not only help them to connect to resources but position our communities for recovery,” he said in a statement.

Fallout hitting hard

Nuttapong Foowaontgfit, co-owner of the Sushi Ryokan restaurant in Seal Beach, said fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting this business hard. His eatery, like other restaurants throughout California, can only offer takeout service.

“We’re making anywhere from $200 to $400 a day, but our rent is $9,000 a month and we also have to pay our employees,” he said. “We may have to get a loan.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that all bars, wineries, brewpubs and nightclubs in California be closed to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus. Restaurants can remain open, Newsom said, but they can only offer takeout service.

The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has since offered “regulatory relief,” which allows restaurants to sell beer, wine, and distilled spirits for off-sale consumption.

Otto Solorzano, acting director of the county Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, said his agency and its partners are working around the clock to help get businesses and workers back on their feet.

Retail hiring

There is one bright spot amid the downturn.

Walmart announced last week that it plans to hire 6,200 employees in California to work at company stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers.

Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 workers throughout the U.S. –which is sure to include many in California — and Domino’s Pizza franchise owners are looking to hire 2,500 workers across the greater Los Angeles region to keep up with increased delivery service.

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