East Texas community banks and financial institutions have been helping small businesses apply for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.
The $659 billion in loans was made through the Small Business Administration, which provided forgivable loans if at least 75% was used on payroll and the rest spent on rent, utilities or mortgage payments.
“The program was structured to take advantage of existing banking relationships that favored established businesses,” John Arensmeyer, the CEO of the advocacy group Small Business Majority told The Associated Press. “It was not designed for very small businesses.”
That’s what makes the Lufkin City Council’s “We Love Lufkin” small business grant program so important.
The city qualified for approximately $500,000 from the CARES Act to reimburse the cost of business interruption due to COVID-19, interim city manager Bruce Green said. He said 62 grants have been approved.
The city proposed 75% of the funding go toward supporting any small business in Lufkin while the remaining 25% would be specifically dedicated to supporting minority-owned businesses and businesses located in low- to moderate-income communities.
The city’s program designates four levels of financial aid that businesses could fit into.
■ Level 1: Businesses employing fewer than five people are eligible for a $5,000 grant.
■ Level 2: Businesses employing six to 20 people are eligible for a $7,500 grant.
■ Level 3: Businesses employing 21-40 people are eligible for a $10,000 grant.
■ Level 4: Businesses employing 41-50 people are eligible for a $15,000 grant.
Funds are available to businesses and nonprofits who fit the following criteria:
■ They employ 50 people or less.
■ They are located within the city of Lufkin with a Lufkin mailing address.
■ They are registered to do business in Texas.
■ They have been operational since Sept. 1, 2019.
■ They are able to demonstrate a 20% reduction in business as a result of the pandemic.
■ They are self-employed individuals, independent contractors, sole proprietors and/or nonprofits serving the business community.
■ If they’re applying as minority-owned, they must verify that: 51% of the business is owned by a minority or group of minorities that are U.S. citizens; the business is registered in the state of Texas; and it is owned, managed and operated on a daily basis by a minority or group of minority owners.
While the cash infusion helps, the additional funding may not be enough to repair the damage done to small businesses by this pandemic. And it won’t be clear how many small businesses failed because of the pandemic until it’s finally over. Unfortunately, that won’t happen until an effective vaccine is developed or enough people around the world have been infected to develop immunity, according to virologists and epidemiologists.
But even with that financial assistance, many small businesses are still struggling and are in need of the community’s support. We all need to do our part to help spur the economic recovery in our community.