Business · California

Calif. $500mil business grant program marred with personal data breaches

Small business owners around California are running into serious data breaches of their personal information while applying for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new $500 million small business grant program.

California small businesses have suffered now for nine months since Gov. Newsom in March ordered the state’s businesses into lockdown and residents to stay-at-home, blaming the coronavirus.

During this time, riots broke out, and Antifa and Black Lives Matter thugs broke into small businesses in cities throughout the state and destroyed many.

Businesses were whipsawed by the governor open/closed/open/closed several times since then, only to be ordered closed indefinitely before Christmas.

Downtown Sacramento looks like a scene out of the post-apocalyptic Mad Max movie.

And all for a virus with a 99.98% survival rate.

On November 30, 2020, Governor Newsom and the State Legislature announced the allocation of $500 million available to small businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’s press statement said. The program is administered by California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), part of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).

The program was already marred by race-based grant awards, as explained by the Governor’s California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA):

Grants will not be issued on a first-come, first-served basis and will be awarded after the close of each application round.

“Inclusive, equitable relief is fundamental to the small business support developed by this administration,” said Isabel Guzman, CalOSBA Director. “This grant program provides that support through a network of Community Development Financial Institutions and Community Based Organizations ensuring reach to those highly impacted small businesses in disadvantaged communities, underserved small business groups, and industries disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.”

But worse than race-based “equity” decision making, we heard from small business owners more concerned that their personal data is being compromised. Here is one small business owner’s email message from December 31, 2020, who asked for anonymity:

“I’m a small business owner from [REDACTED], CA. I’ve been trying to apply all day to the new $500 Million dollar grant program that Governor Newsom established. I tried to access the application platform most of the day and was finally able to create an account after several hours and multiple attempts. I received several email notifications that my account was created and that I could login to finish my application. Upon logging in I entered all the required information but the system timed out again and my information was lost. I decided to wait until the workday was over and my kids were asleep to resume progress on the application.

Last night (9:30PM), I logged in to the system and started to review my saved information on the application. I noticed that my address, birthdate, and social security number were incorrect. My application had my name but someone else’s address, birthdate, and social security number. I immediately took a screenshot and logged out of the system. When I logged in again the same error was present. I’m extremely concerned that my information as well as other business owners’ personal information is being compromised.

The public deserves to know that this is happening. Business owners have been through enough this year, the last thing they need is for the State of California to compromise their personal and sensitive information.”

The business owner forwarded a screenshot of the information with her name misspelled, and she said the birthdate and social security number she correctly typed in were also both now wrong.

Get the full story from The California Globe: Read More

The San Joaquin Valley Sun
Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.