Supervisor Gloria Molina (right) joined officials in honoring then-Los Angeles County CEO Bill Fujioka (third from right) on his retirement in November 2014. Molina passed away on Sunday after a three-year battle with cancer. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

As the daughter of working-class parents, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina understood the daily struggles faced by small mom-and-pop businesses, the kind that are found throughout Little Tokyo.

Molina, the first Latina to be elected to the Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council and the State Assembly, died on Sunday at the age of 74. She announced in March that she had been battling terminal cancer for three years.

When plans for Metro’s Regional Connector were announced in 2012, Molina, then a member of the Metro Board of Directors, worked with the Little Tokyo Business Association (LTBA) leadership to devise a plan that would help mom-and-pop businesses in the event the light-rail line construction negatively impacted the merchants. She introduced a motion to the Metro board that would commit $10 million to establish a business interruption fund, a minor commitment considering Metro’s $8 billion annual budget.

Molina’s motion, which was designed to help small businesses thrive through construction and post construction, was adopted by the Metro board and soon a business interruption fund (BIF) was established to provide financial assistance not only to small businesses in the Little Tokyo area but also along the Crenshaw/LAX transit line, 2nd and Broadway, and Section 1, 2, and 3 of the Purple Line Extension.

Businesses were allowed to file multiple requests for financial assistance through the BIF, but funds were limited to $50,000 or 60% of annual business revenue losses per business, whichever was lower. The Little Tokyo Community Council was pegged to help promote the fund along with general activities and events taking place throughout the construction period.

Molina represented Little Tokyo starting in 1991. She left office in 2014 due to term limits enacted in 2002. Before stepping down as county supervisor, she addressed the LTBA 2014 installation dinner as guest speaker and stressed the importance of protecting Little Tokyo’s “most important resource — the family businesses that are the backbone of this and every community.”

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