Minority-owned small businesses in Houston will soon be able to apply for up to $10,000 as part of a larger $1 million grant program from Comcast, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday.
The grant — called Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment, or RISE — was set up through a $5 million investment fund from Comcast to provide support for Black, indigenous, and minority-owned local businesses. Houston was one of five cities in the U.S. awarded $1 million of that fund, which will go to 100 local businesses, Turner said.
“Many of our businesses, small businesses and businesses of color, have been hard hit due to this pandemic,” the mayor said.
To qualify, a business must have been in operation for three years in the Harris-Fort Bend County area, supporting up to 25 employees. Houston-area businesses can begin applying for the $10,000 grant on March 1, through the Comcast RISE website. The application process runs through March 14, and the grants will be awarded in May.
Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Atlanta were also picked for the grant program. Along with Houston, the five cities were among the hardest hit by a sharp decline in commercial spending due to the coronavirus pandemic, Turner said.
Since the start of the pandemic, small businesses in Houston and across the country have struggled to stay afloat, with many business owners having reduced, delayed, or otherwise chosen not to make payments related to their business, according to research from JP Morgan. The city also pointed to research that showed Black, indigenous and other people of color were among the most impacted.
Last year, the Greater Houston Partnership found that 90% of Houston’s small and medium-sized businesses lost revenue due to COVID-19 immediately after the pandemic hit the region. A $15 million city-run economic relief program set up last year saw more than 2,000 applications submitted within the first seven hours.
RISE launched in October, and was originally aimed at supporting just black-owned small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Later on, the program expanded to include other groups, according to Comcast.
The company also announced Tuesday it would donate more than $2 million to nearly 20 community-based organizations in those five cities to spread the word about the program, while also providing job training and mentorship.
In Houston, the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce, Cámara de Empresarios Latinos de Houston, the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Houston East End Chamber, and the Asian Chamber of Commerce have already been tapped to participate in the program.
“Our small businesses here in Houston have always played an integral part in our city’s growth and future,” said Michael Bybee, Comcast’s director of external communications in Houston. “These entrepreneurs provide many of the services and resources that have kept our communities up and running, and still do.”