San Manuel Tribe donates $1m to 50 small businesses


Event benefits restaurants, personal care service providers hit hard by pandemic closures.

California’s San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians donated $20,000 each to 50 small businesses, a total of $1m the tribe said is a continuation of its long-held culture of giving.

The tribe collaborated with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership to identify small businesses based in its ancestral territory of the San Bernardino highlands that have been devastated by the impact of COVID-19.

The tribe operates a casino in Highland near its reservation.

The IEEP helped the tribe select businesses that represent industries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as restaurants, personal care services, and others deemed non-essential by state health officials.

The 50 business owners were invited to a virtual event, during which San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairman Ken Ramirez (pictured, third from right) revealed each of them would receive a $20,000 grant.

“We all look forward to the day when you can fully reopen your doors for good and welcome your customers back,” Ramirez said during the event. “Until then, you have a hand up from San Manuel to cover expenses and keep your employees on the payroll.”  

The tribe said the grants will provide business owners with assistance in paycheck protection to fund their current workforce, and cash flow assistance to cover operational expenses, debt relief and business improvements. 

“Our San Manuel Cares team contacted each of these 50 businesses to learn more about their hardships and find the best way to provide assistance,” added Ramirez.

Paul Granillo, president and CEO of IEEP, said nearly 50% of local small businesses reported a large negative effect from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tribe said since ancient times, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians have expressed themselves through a culture of giving. This week’s donation was part of Yawa, a Serrano word meaning “to act on one’s beliefs.”

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