LA street vendors receive $5 million grant

Street vendors in Los Angeles are getting support for legal assistance, loans, business advice and other assistance through a $5 million grant administered by a partnership of local organizations.

JPMorgan Chase’s grant to the Open Air Economy Collaborative. is spread over three years. It will fund public legal advice, soft loans, financial literacy support and more for vendors and micro-entrepreneurs.

Rudy Espinoza, CEO of Inclusive action for the city, part of the collaboration, says street vendors are essential to the local economy, but they’re struggling to access capital. He said the grant will ultimately help black and Hispanic women, who he says make up the majority of LA street vendors

“They have to rely on payday lenders and other types of usurious lenders to get capital for their businesses,” Espinoza said. “This gift from JPMorgan Chase is really important because it will invest in that infrastructure.”

In the era of COVID-19, Espinoza says street vendors have become even more critical because it’s safer for customers to gather outside, and they’ve become an integral part of so many communities.

Still, street vendors face an uphill battle to apply for the appropriate permits, given the stringent regulations imposed by local health authorities, which can result in fines and confiscation of their equipment if flouted.

Espinoza said the grant will help 500 street vendors get the right sales permits and help 350 black and Latino entrepreneurs get low-cost credit.

“We’re also really uncompromising … this is really about Black and Latina [women]”, he said. “The majority of street vendors out here are women and heads of household, and they need support…so we’re really focused on supporting them.”

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