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Houston’s small business owners can soon apply for up to $50K grant for pandemic relief. What you need to know

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the launch of Houston’s Small Business Economic Relief Program during Monday’s daily briefing on the city’s COVID-19 cases.

Small business owners can apply for an SBERP grant beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The $15 million program, funded with the city’s allocated CARES Act funds, will provide immediate and short term assistance to small businesses and chambers of commerce that have been impacted by the pandemic.

The deadline to apply will be at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 4.

Who is eligible?

To qualify for an SBERP grant, business owners must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a business whose principal place of business is located within the city limits of Houston
  • Must have been in business for at least one (1) year as of March 1, 2020
  • Must provide evidence of how business revenue has significantly decreased because of government restrictions or other challenges due to COVID-19
  • A business qualifies if it generated $2 million or less in gross annual revenue pre-COVID-19
  • Must be in good standing regarding City requirements (e.g. property taxes, personal property, grounds for debarment, etc)
  • Must commit to completing the Recovery and Resiliency component of this program provided via HBDi

How to apply

Applicants must complete the digital form on the city of Houston’s Small Business Economic Relief Program website.

What is the maximum amount?

The maximum amount a business or chamber can receive is $50,000. The business may use the funds for payroll, accounts payable, rent, mortgage, personal protective equipment for employees and marketing strategies, including creating an online presence and other sales alternatives.

”SBERP funds will not be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Small businesses that are in most financial need and exhibit a moderate to high likelihood of surviving the pandemic’s adverse impacts will receive the most consideration for grant funds,” Turner said in a news release Monday. “I highly encourage you to take your time to complete your application fully and carefully before the Sept. 4 deadline.”

How will business owners get the money?

If approved, business owners will receive funds in two phases:

Phase 1: The first half of the funds will be given upon approval

Phase 2: The second half will be given after completion of the Recovery and Resiliency component of the program. This component includes, but is not limited to, assistance in strategic planning, finance, marketing and human resource management.

“In addition to immediate financial assistance, the SBERP is also intended to help small businesses sustain their operations during and after the pandemic. By utilizing the Recovery and Resiliency component, these small businesses can maximize their long-term, positive impact on our local economy through their contribution to job retention and the continued availability of their services,” said Marsha Murray, Director at Business Opportunity Director. “We highly encourage those that did not qualify for other federal or local programs — or did not receive enough funds to mitigate the impact of the crisis – to apply for this program.”

In addition to these requirements, a weighted scoring matrix will be used to ensure the equitable distribution of grant funds, according to a press release. Applications will be prioritized based on several factors including geography, employee makeup, access to capital challenges, years in business, and demonstrated resiliency, according to the release.

Business owner says money be ‘big boost’

Ruben Mercado Jr. is the owner of Ipsom General Contractors in east Houston. He said he applied for the grant on Wednesday morning because his business took a significant hit during the pandemic.

“Our business was affected when this started back in March,” Mercado said. “A lot of the projects that we were promised to be on were canceled or postponed. He added that receiving this grant money would provide a big boost.”

“This certainly would help for me to be able to rehire some of the guys we had to layoff and helps with other expenses,” he added.


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