SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Still reeling from the pandemic, many downtown Santa Ana businesses are struggling to stay open as streetcar construction in the area reduces their foot traffic.
For instance, a juice-and-bagel shop that was supposed to be a reliable source of income for Maria Perez and her family is now nothing more than a financial hardship. Overdue bills continue to mount and she owes her landlord $30,000 in back rent piling up since April.
Speaking in Spanish, Perez explained that her husband was battling cancer following his diagnosis in 2018 but still worked 12-hour shifts, regardless of his radiation treatments. That still wasn't enough to cover rent, but luckily, their property owner has been understanding.
Perez was just one of dozens of business owners in downtown Santa Ana struggling to stay open. It was already too late for many.
They said the pandemic coupled with the construction for the OC Streetcar pushed customers away.
Monday, local elected leaders joined U.S. Rep. Lou Correa on a walk through the area. They spoke with business owners about the Business Uninterrupted Monetary Program (BUMP) Act, introduced earlier this month.
"I have federal legislation which is gonna mandate that the locals create interruption funds. Meaning, you got construction, you gotta help the businesses. But that's a year or two out. Right now, what we need to do is help them generate business," the congressman said.
With Correa were Orange County District 5 Supervisor Katrina Foley and Councilmembers Johnathan Hernandez and David Penaloza.
"We want the streetcar," Foley said. "We think it's gonna be good for the long term, but what about the short term? What about businesses that have been here 30 years or more?"
Shawn Makhani, owner of Telas Fabric, has been here for more than three decades.
Makhani said the area needs something to bring back customers, "some kind of attraction to bring community back, something like music," Makhani said.
Mimi Mar, who owns The Pizza Press, agreed the Bump Act would be helpful in the future, but said they needed help now.
"A lot of these businesses feel the same way," Mar said. "They had a business that was up and running and this construction comes along and all of a sudden we're closed off from the rest of the world and that just isn't right."
A great opportunity to shop local here is this Saturday, Dec. 2, when the Winter Village kicks off with a tree-lighting ceremony starting at 5 p.m.