Even though Texas has been gradually reopening its economy over the last six weeks, many small businesses are struggling to regain their financial footing.
Fort Bend County officials are trying to do their part to ensure business begins booming sooner rather than later.
Applications opened Monday morning for the county’s Small Business Emergency Grant Program, which is aimed at addressing the financial hardships faced by small business owners due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The $22 million allocated to the program comes from the federal CARES Act and was approved last month by the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court.
“Our small businesses are important to our society and any community,” County Judge KP George said. “They are the backbone of our society.”
The available grants, which are worth up to $10,000 per business, are available to small businesses that incurred eligible expenses under the CARES Act, including the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), reopening supplies, renovations, equipment, inventory and remote working expenses. They also provide assistance with leases, mortgages and utilities. The business must have incurred the expenses as of April 3, when George issued the county’s stay-at-home order that expired at the end of April.
Once the initial $22 million is expended, officials encouraged business owners to still apply as they could take the data back to commissioners court for a potential $12 million in additional funding if the need arises.
“Even if it appears you’re not the perfect fit for the application, please apply,” County Auditor Ed Sturdivant said. “It’s our team’s goal to qualify all of these businesses.”
To apply for the grant, businesses must meet the following criteria, among others:
· Employ anywhere from 1-20 full-time equivalent employees. For businesses with multiple locations, the employee count will be calculated by location.
· Have at least $100,000 in revenue and not exceed $2 million based on 2019 income. If they were not in business for the full 12 months in 2019, they are to use an average of income for the last three months preceding the April 3 stay-at-home order.
– Have incurred a loss of revenue of 25 percent or more as a direct result of the pandemic.
Through June 29, the program is exclusively available to applicants who applied but were either denied or not able to receive funding due to program funds no longer being available from the Small Business Association’s PPP, EIDL or EIDG programs, according to the county. Beginning June 30, all eligible applicants may apply on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We know this program is not going to be able to help all small businesses that have needs,” Fort Bend County Chamber of Commerce CEO Kerri Schmidt said. “But it’s our hope that through this first phase of implementation that we’re going to learn how we can improve eligibility requirements should there be that funding.”
Business owners with questions about the program or their eligibility can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the county’s website at coronavirusfortbend.gov/covid19-small-business-emergency-assistance-grant-program.html.
“We need the economy to roar,” said Jeff Wiley, director of the Fort Bend County Economic Development Council. “And we’re looking forward to that process of restoration.”