John Keisler, Darick Simpson. Photo: Brandon Richardson.

Less than a month after its first board meeting, a newly-created community development corporation will shift its focus to supporting businesses struggling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion was created in September, with financial support from the city and the Wells Fargo Foundation, to open up economic opportunities for the city’s underserved communities.

Launching in the middle of a public health crisis with severe economic impacts, the new organization has temporarily shifted its focus from more general goals like workforce and youth development to immediate emergency assistance for businesses.

The new board has authorized $150,000 to fund efforts aimed at supporting small businesses, assisting with food security, improving digital inclusion and providing housing support services during the crisis.

“We’re trying to work out the specifics,” Jeff Williams, the corporation’s interim director, said. “It’s all changing very quickly.”

The new board met for the first time on March 11, just days before the city began imposing restrictions on large gatherings and ordering non-essential businesses to close.

At the moment, the organization is working with the city’s economic development department to identify the needs of community organizations, nonprofits and faith-based communities and create partnerships for the deployment of emergency funds, Williams added.

Councilman Rex Richardson pushed the development of the new corporation, submitting a request for $125,000 in funds that was approved by the city council in September. The Wells Fargo Foundation has provided an additional grant of $115,000, to help sustain the CDC through its first year.

“With so much economic uncertainty for Long Beach, the timing is right for a community development corporation to step up in ensuring small businesses and working families are a key focus of our relief and recovery efforts,” Richardson said in a press release.