Finally some good news for mobile food vendors! Thanks to a slew of local, state and federal assistance programs, food businesses now have more options than ever before to get back on their feet. 

From zero and low-interest loans to grants, license and registration fee waivers, expedited processing, tax credits and extended deadlines, and streamlined outdoor space usage—there has never been a better time to tap into benefits. 

Of course, they don’t make it easy. While much assistance has recently become available to COVID-impacted food industry businesses and employees, navigating who is eligible and how much is a bit like deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

Things are changing daily, so it’s best to act quickly. Aid often dries up within days or weeks, meaning agencies can no longer accept applications. 

Here’s How You Can Get Assistance as a Mobile Food Business in the Bay Area

We’ve divided the aid information by type—grants, loans, waivers, tax relief and miscellaneous support. Even if your mobile food business survived this tumultuous year, you might be eligible for assistance. And if you find one for which you qualify that is no longer taking applicants, check back because sometimes new funds become available.

Grants to Help Mobile Food Industry Businesses

SF Shines Program: Provides reimbursement grants for up to $5K for small restaurant businesses to recover the costs of COVID-related safety precautions such as outdoor furniture, barriers and dividers, and indoor reconfigurations. At least one aspect of your business must operate out of a storefront to be eligible.

SF Relief Grant: In January, the city announced this program that will provide $5K to $50K grants to small businesses. The program focuses on supporting high-need neighborhoods and businesses operated by women, people of color, long-standing companies, and those excluded from other relief programs. The program isn’t accepting applications just yet but check the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development site for updates.

CA Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program: Offers up to $25K for small businesses impacted by pandemic-induced business closures and interruptions. The program releases funding in rounds and is currently in Round 5 (March 25th through March 31st). Round 6 dates will be announced soon. One thing to note is that many applicants from earlier rounds currently top the waitlists. If you haven’t previously applied, contact them at 888-612-4370 to find out if you can still apply. You can also check this list of program partners representing various BIPOC and other groups for help.

Get Back2Business for Small Business Program (Oakland only): Awards up to $10K for Black and minority-owned businesses with fewer than 10 employees impacted by COVID-19 and social unrest. Application deadline is currently listed as Monday, March 29.

iBank Small Business Finance Center Loan Guarantee Disaster Relief: Offers loan guarantees to lenders who support small businesses that don’t qualify for federal disaster funds, including those in low-wealth and immigrant communities. Here is a list of participating lenders.

The San Francisco Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund: A joint project between the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development that provides mini-grants up to $5K to San Francisco women-owned small businesses.

Loans to Help Mobile Food Vendors

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): The Small Business Administration (SBA) manages the PPP loan program and allows banks, fintech (financial technology) companies and community lenders to distribute PPP loans to small businesses (including sole proprietors) on its behalf. Community lenders tend to be more willing to lend to minority and women-owned businesses than corporate banks.

Congress has recently revised the PPP—key things to note: 

  • The deadline to apply is March 31, 2021.
  • Owners may qualify even if they have non-fraud felony convictions and student loan debt delinquency.
  • Often, PPP loan recipients do NOT have to repay some or all the loans, provided they use the funds for approved expenses (includes payroll, mortgages, rent, and utilities).
  • No collateral is required.
  • Non-citizen business owners who are lawful U.S. residents may apply using their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • Eligible food businesses can receive up to 3.5 times their average monthly payroll costs from the last 12 months of payroll—up to $10 million for first-time borrowers and $2 million for second-time borrowers. Businesses that operate under the North American Industry Classification System (NAIC) code beginning with 72 (Accommodation and Food Services – U.S. Census Bureau) are eligible. Mobile food vendors typically operate under code 722330, so they typically qualify.
  • Second-time PPP borrowers must demonstrate they lost 25% of their revenue (gross receipts) in any quarter compared to the same quarter in2019.

PPP First Draw Borrower Application Form

PPP Second Draw Borrower Application Form

COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs): The SBA manages EIDLS that typically cover natural disasters such as hurricanes but are now available to COVID-impacted businesses.

Key things to note:

  • The program offers businesses loans up to $2M.
  • Currently, the interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses, and repayment terms are based on your ability to repay, with a maximum repayment term of 30 years.
  • No collateral required for loans less than $200K.
  • You can defer your first payment for one year.
  • You can use the money to pay bills, payroll, fixed debts and accounts payable.
  • You can’t use the money to pay bonuses, expand facilities, buy fixed assets or pay off federal debts or the SBA.

SF Community Investment Loan: A new program that will provide zero and low-interest business loans up to $250K, with a focus on supporting businesses that haven’t qualified for other relief programs. Program details should be announced soon. Check the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development site for updates.

San Francisco African American Revolving Loan Fund: Offers financial assistance and access to capital for Black-owned small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Businesses can receive up to $50K 0%-interest-rate loans with no collateral required. The fund is currently closed to new applicants but received new funding in February 2021, so check back.

Working Solutions Small Business Revolving Loan Fund: Offers $5K to $50K 5%-interest-rate loans to  COVID-19 or recent wildfire-impacted businesses located within the nine Bay Area counties.

California Rebuilding Fund: Offers up $100K 4.25%-interest-rate loans or up to 100% of your business’ average monthly revenues for three months before the pandemic, whichever is less. Applicants can qualify for a 60-month or a 36-month repayment term.

Main Street Launch – San Francisco: Nonprofit organization that manages two funds. The San Francisco Small Business Revolving Loan Fund offers 3.5%-interest-rate microloans of up to $50K. To be eligible, your business must be within the city or county of San Francisco and create or retain at least one full-time equivalent job. Contact Karla De Leon at 415-213-8677 or karla@mainstreetlaunch.org to schedule a 20–30-minute eligibility phone call. The second fund is the San Francisco Emerging Business Loan Fund, which offers loans from $50K to $250K.

Opportunity Fund: Offers assistance to underserved small business owners impacted by COVID. Contact them at 888-720-3215 (888-648-7859 en español) to learn more about loan options.

Southeast Asian Community Center SBA 7(m) Microloan Program: Intermediary lender for the SBA’s 7(m) microloan program, which provides $1K to $50K with competitive interest rates to Northern California businesses.

Mission Asset Fund: Helps businesses participate in lending circles, where low-income community members become lenders and lenders become borrowers for 0%-interest-rate loans.

Feed the Hunger Fund/Open for Business Package: With support from Wells Fargo, FTHF is offering grants and 3%-interest-rate loans to street food vendors (pushcarts so mobile food trucks may be ineligible).

Latino Small Business Fund: Offers up to $50K in 0%-interest-rate loans with up to six-year terms with no collateral required for Latino San Francisco business owners. Currently, the fund is no longer accepting applications, but check back in case things change.

Tax, Registration, and License Fee Waivers

San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector: Announced extended deadlines for certain business taxes and fees:

  • Business Registration Renewal: the original deadline was June 1, 2020 / new deadline is April 30, 2021
  • Annual Business Taxes: the original deadline was March 1, 2021 / new deadline is April 30, 2021
  • 2020-21 License Fees: the original deadline was March 1, 2021 / new deadline is November 1, 2021
  • 2021-22 License Fees: the original deadline was March 1, 2021 / new deadline is November 1, 2021

Restaurant Waivers: Regulatory license and business registration fees and 2020 Payroll Expense Taxes are waived for businesses with restaurant permits H24, H25 and H26 and gross receipts less than $750K. If you already paid them, you will receive a refund.

Property Tax Penalty Waivers: If you were unable to pay your property taxes because of the pandemic, you can apply for a waiver to avoid paying the 10% late payment penalty and the $45 administrative fee.

COVID-19 Tax Relief for Small Businesses

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently passed legislation that provides business tax relief to restaurants and other businesses that had to shut down due to the pandemic. You must renew your registration or file a tax return by April 30, 2021, to determine if you qualify for this relief. You can view a video here that explains more.

Employee Retention Tax Credit: Eligible employers can now claim a refundable tax credit against the employer share of Social Security tax equal to 70% of the qualified wages they pay to employees after December 31, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

Coronavirus Tax Relief for Businesses and Tax-Exempt Entities: Where to find current IRS updates and information on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law on March 11, 2021.

COVID-19 Business Tax Relief Tool: Advocacy group offers a free online tool to help see if your business qualifies for new tax relief programs.

Other Support Opportunities

City of San Jose Small Business COVID Relief Programs: Comprehensive list of loans, grants, and funding, plus tax assistance and technical support for area businesses.

Free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): San Francisco is offering a one-month supply of hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and face shields to businesses located in designated Opportunity Neighborhoods, plus low-income and high-public-interaction businesses.

Office of Economic and Workforce Development COVID-19 Relief: Comprehensive list of support including grants, loans, and other relief for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

City of Oakland Mobile Food Vending Permits: No limits on the total number of permits and no application fees for mobile vending permits for food trailers/trucks and mobile food vendors.

San Francisco Shared Spaces: The city has made it much easier for businesses to use outdoor space such as sidewalks, parking lanes, streets, private property, and parks for dining, seating, and retail. Permit fees are waived, but you do need to apply.

Oakland Flex Streets Initiative: Streamlined permitting for using parking lots, sidewalks, streets, private spaces, and city-owned property for dining and retail.

City of Oakland Business Assistance Center: Offers free help and referrals for small business owners. For pandemic-related support, complete the online City of Oakland COVID-19 Business & Nonprofit Impact Data Survey.

Mission Economic Development Agency: Offers a wide variety of support and information such as applying for loans and negotiating with commercial landlords.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Programs: The Office of Economic and Workforce Development offers various programs that support women-owned businesses.

Relief Is Here, So Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out

Even if you’ve been denied previous aid or have been hesitant to apply, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by asking for assistance. If you’re unsure which programs you’re eligible for, several organizations and nonprofits are willing to guide you. Start with your local community organizations and city and county agencies. We are all relieved and eagerly await the Bay Area’s vibrant, essential mobile food industry’s recovery.