Harris Co. launches $30M small business relief fund

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 9/22/21

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 1 Rodney Ellis announced the county’s Small Business Relief Fund during a Monday press conference. The grant program …

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Harris Co. launches $30M small business relief fund

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 1 Rodney Ellis announced the county’s Small Business Relief Fund during a Monday press conference. The grant program is offering $30 million to small businesses operating in Harris County to help them recover from the economic strains of the last year and a half.

“We know that our COVID-19 relief programs are working,” Hidalgo said. “Here in Harris County, we have led on direct financial assistance. On rental assistance for example, our program has been so successful that the federal government has set it as a national example… So, now we’re playing the same ethos of efficiency, of equity (and) creativity to our small business relief program.”

Hidalgo said that including this program, Harris County has now issued more than $75 million in aid for small businesses. The grant program, which will not require funds to be paid back, will prioritize small businesses and work to ensure they are successful. Grants can be requested from $5,000 to $25,000 which will allow the county to assist between 1,200 and 6,000 local companies.

“If you’ve been hard hit by the pandemic, this program is for you,” Hidalgo said. “We are designing it to help you, your employees, your family – to help give back, because you give so much to our community.”

Applications are open through Monday, Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. Instructions on how to apply may be found online at www.harriscountybusinessrelief.org, and the program will be managed by LiftFund, an organization that focuses on small loans and other financial assistance programs in cooperation with government entities, however, this program is grant-based rather than loan oriented.

According to the program’s website, small businesses with 30 or fewer employees located in Harris County and in operation prior to April 2020 are eligible. These businesses must have experienced a negative impact on operations as a result of the pandemic and have annual revenue of less than $500,000 in 2019 and 2020 and be in good standing with the Texas Comptrollers Office.  Only one grant will be awarded per business, those businesses that have received other pandemic aid are eligible to apply.

To apply, business owners should have their driver’s license or government-issued photo ID available as well as proof of business registration with Harris County or the Texas Secretary of State. They should also provide payroll information for the first quarter of 2021, a payroll report or IRS 1099 form to verify the number of employees working at the business. A utility bill for the business must also be provided and a home utility bill will work for a home-based business. Veterans who apply should include a DD 214 form as well.

Veteran, woman and minority-owned businesses will be prioritized as data shows those businesses have been hardest hit by the pandemic, Ellis said. Additionally, businesses with fewer than 10 employees will be given preference as well.

“Many businesses have been impacted nationally (and) minority and women-owned businesses have been more severely impacted,” Ellis said. “We show from statistics nationally, a 19% decrease of black business ownership in this country (and) a 10% decrease in Latino business ownership in this country.”

Both Ellis and Hidalgo stressed that it is important for small businesses to check into the grants sooner rather than later.

“This is to put the word out – apply,” Ellis said. “A lot of people who get our numbers do call us individually and think there’s some magic, (but) it’s all online. So, we’re sounding the alarm. Make sure you apply.”

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