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Travis County selects 225 businesses for grant funding, approves waitlist

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

Nearly five months ago, Travis County approved a $10 million grant allocation from its federal Covid-19 relief dollars to fund small businesses in need. Now, thanks to a unanimous vote from the Commissioners Court on Tuesday, 225 businesses in the county will begin receiving up to $40,000 apiece to help them weather pandemic-fueled financial difficulties.

Travis County and Business & Community Lenders of Texas, which the county hired to process and recommend applications, confirmed that there were more applications for aid than the county could support through its $9 million TCTX Thrive program ($1 million of the funding was directed toward administrative costs).

In addition to the 225 businesses meeting the eligibility requirements and receiving a recommendation for funding, Christy Moffett, with the Planning and Budget Office, presented commissioners with two waiting lists of businesses seeking funding from the county. BCL identified a total of 335 businesses that qualified for funding under the parameters set by the Commissioners Court.

Prioritized businesses include those that are woman- or minority-owned; employ or are owned by low-income individuals; are located in low- to moderate-income census tracts; and did not use a third party to fill out the application. “That means you really are targeting the mom-and-pop shops, the unique businesses,” Moffett said.

In addition, a business must be located outside of the city of Austin, employ fewer than 25 people and report a maximum net annual revenue of $500,000.

Of those awarded funds, Moffett said, “No business had over $300,000 of net revenue and almost all of the businesses had under $150,000 net revenue.”

Moffett explained that over 1,500 businesses asked about the program before the pre-application process began in June when a total of 520 businesses applied. Of those, 434 companies officially applied for the program, and from that, BCL whittled down the list to 335 enterprises, ranging from construction companies and dentists to beauty salons and child care.

The county allowed franchisees to participate in the process, although these business owners were originally excluded from eligibility. After Moffett’s staff and BCL discovered a lot of minority-owned, mom-and-pop businesses were franchises, they changed the program guidelines to allow them. These businesses were listed as Priority 3 in the final ranking.

In the final list of businesses receiving funding from the TCTX Thrive program, the vast majority are in precincts 1 and 3, 33 percent and 43 percent respectively. County staffers were interested in aiding businesses in Precinct 4; however, Moffett explained many of the businesses were ineligible as they were located within the city of Austin’s jurisdiction.

Already, 27 businesses identified for grant funding may not require the full $40,000. Should these enterprises forgo some of this money, BCL will reallocate the dollars to those on the waitlists. There is a maximum of 250 total businesses that may receive funding. Moffett explained this limitation is due to the secondary component of the TCTX Thrive program, in which BCL will provide individual businesses with business coaching and continuity planning.

Organizations identified for funding have 30 days to submit their budgets to the county. Owners receiving grants must spend them and report back to the county no later than Dec. 10. Businesses may also retroactively recuperate costs from as far back as March 1.

Commissioners unanimously approved the list of identified businesses and urged county staff to expedite the process of getting funds to people in order to allow the maximum amount of time for spending. “I’m really glad we were able to help so many small businesses,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said.

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