Starting Tuesday, small business owners in College Station can apply for grants of up to $40,000 if they have been affected by city declarations regarding stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Monday afternoon, College Station City Council approved an Economic Assistance Grant Program funded with about $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant Economic Development Funds. The program is meant to prevent job losses for employees with families in the low-to-moderate household income range, such as a family unit of four that earns less than $54,800 a year. City officials also hope it can assist with job creation and allow businesses to reach employment numbers they had before the COVID-19 changes, which includes a recent shelter-in-place order.
The grant size a company can receive is based on the number of employees. A business with one to five employees can receive a maximum grant of $10,000, those with six to 10 can get $20,000, those with 11 to 20 can earn $30,000 and any place with 21 or more employees is eligible for up to $40,000.
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“This program makes a lot of sense,” Councilman John Nichols said. “It isn’t the total answer for our businesses in the community, but it’s a quick turnaround answer and addresses the most vulnerable.”
Applicants have to provide information including financial documents and employee information from before and after COVID-19 declarations were put in place.
Grant applications will be posted under the business resources tab of cstx.gov/covid19 starting Tuesday. Funds will be awarded each week. Each business can only receive one grant. Grant funds will be disbursed in four installments. The first disbursement is provided when an application is approved, and the following are contingent on the business owner submitting payroll documentation that shows the grant assisted in retaining job funding.
To make the nearly $300,000 available for the program, $234,158 was moved from the city budget’s “acquisition” funds to the “economic development” portion of the budget. There was previously $50,000 allotted for economic development. The adjustment was the maximum amount of money the city is allowed to move within the budget without going through a lengthier process.
Acquisition funds are usually used to help places like Habitat for Humanity obtain land for affordable housing. Community Services Coordinator Debbie Eller told council members that the acquisition portion of the budget now has a little more than half its funds remaining, which she said is enough for about one affordable housing type project.
Council members also approved a motion that allows city staff to defer the collection of hotel occupancy taxes. From March through August, hotel owners can work with the city on a payment plan. Regular HOT collection will resume in September, with all the funds that were deferred for the previous six months due in December. There will not be a reduction or waiver for the HOT funds.
The deferment, Economic Development Director Natalie Ruiz said, is helpful for hoteliers because the cancellations at Texas A&M University and the county shelter-in-place order has negatively impacted their business. Ruiz said staff hopes that waiting to collect payment until traffic picks up again in the fall and winter with football season will make it easier for hotel owners to pay on a regular monthly basis.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, council also allowed the Place 4 city council runoff election that was planned for April 18 to be delayed until the Nov. 3 general election if an earlier date is not approved by state officials. Multiple council members emphasized their desire for staff to try scheduling an election day before Nov. 3.
Elizabeth Cunha and Joe Guerra Jr. are both in the Place 4 race for the unexpired term that ends in November 2021. The position was made available after Elianor Vessali resigned to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Congressional District 17 seat.
For more information on the city’s new grant program, visit blog.cstx.gov.