Mayor Turner, City Council approve additional $5M for small businesses

Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council approved $5 million in additional funding for the City’s Small Business Economic Relief Program (SBERP), which was created to provide grant assistance to small businesses and chambers of commerce that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July, the City of Houston allocated $15 million of CARES Act 2020 dollars to fund the program, which received more than 8,500 applications from eligible businesses during the application period of Aug. 19 through Sept. 4. The additional funds will be used to provide grants to businesses whose applications have been received, and there is not an extension to the application deadline.

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

“With this infusion of money into the Small Business Economic Relief Program, the City will be able to help more small businesses stay open,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “For many communities throughout our city, these small businesses are their lifeline and what makes their area special. By providing assistance to help these businesses stay afloat, we can keep more people employed during these trying times.”

“This $5 million dollar boost will ensure even more small businesses – especially those most impacted by the pandemic – will be able to take advantage of much needed financial assistance,” said Marsha E. Murray, Director of the Office of Business Opportunity, whose office worked to develop the program.

Because funds are not awarded on a first-come, first served basis, but rather on a weighted scoring matrix, all SBERP funds are set to be awarded by the end of October. This matrix will be used to ensure the equitable distribution of grant funds, and applications will be prioritized based on several factors including geography, employee makeup, access to capital challenges, years in business, and demonstrated resiliency.

The first half of the funds will be awarded upon grant approval, while the second half will be given after completion of the Recovery and Resiliency component of the program. This component is meant to ensure businesses that receive grant funds have a higher likelihood of surviving the pandemic.