Though Bexar County and San Antonio both received federal coronavirus relief funding directly from the U.S. Treasury, the 26 suburban cities of Bexar County have not been able to access that financial aid yet.
County commissioners voted Tuesday to let County staff approach the suburban cities with agreements that would allocate some of the county’s federal relief money to those municipalities. Melissa Shannon, the County’s director of governmental affairs, explained that the suburban cities did not qualify for state coronavirus relief because they were part of Bexar County, which received federal funding.
Cities and counties with populations of 500,000 or more received funding directly from the U.S. Treasury, Shannon said. Bexar County received $79 million, while the City of San Antonio received $270 million.
Because all federal coronavirus funding must be spent by the end of 2020, the County hopes to have the agreements with municipalities finalized quickly.
“I hate to say it, but it’s take it or leave it,” Shannon said. “Time is of the essence because we need to get this done, because the spending has to be done by Dec. 30.”
Each city still has to take its agreement to its city council for final approval, which will take additional time, Shannon said. The coronavirus pandemic also has kept many office workers home, which may delay the process further. But agreements must be reached soon, she said.
“Whatever’s not spent, we have to send it back,” she said. “It would be nice to know by September or so.”
The County estimates that it will distribute about $9 million to the 26 suburban cities, which include Live Oak, Leon Valley, and Converse. The County plans to use 2018 census data to determine how many people live in each city, and allocate $55 per person to the city in relief funding.
Bexar County already had planned ahead to make sure some of its federal coronavirus dollars went to those cities, Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) said.
“We anticipated we’d have to shoulder a little of that burden, and we’ve been structuring all of our COVID response programming with suburban cities in mind anyway – [personal protective equipment] distribution for small businesses, temporary rental assistance,” he said. “It wasn’t completely out of the blue. We’re on board to help suburban cities as much as possible. If this is the way to get the funds they need, we’re happy to be partners.”
Bexar County commissioners also voted unanimously to allocate $6.5 million in federal coronavirus relief dollars to give small businesses financial help in the form of grants. The grants will be administered by LiftFund, a microlender based in San Antonio, and are capped at $25,000 per small business with six to 10 full-time employees, and $10,000 per microbusiness with up to five full-time employees.
Commissioners approved giving $28,000 each to four business development groups for outreach efforts: Southside First, the Westside Development Corporation, the North San Antonio Chamber, and to San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE). Each county precinct is represented by one of those organizations, which will alert small businesses about the grant applications from LiftFund.
David Marquez, executive director of the County’s Economic Development Department, said each of the four organizations were selected for their expertise and knowledge of the precinct they call home.
“They’ll provide technical assistance,” he said. “Some of these businesses, especially the very small ones, are also affected by the digital divide. And so helping them gain online access or even doing the online application for them is important.”
To qualify for a grant, small businesses must intend to stay open in Bexar County, make $1 million or less in gross revenue annually, and demonstrate a loss of at least 15 percent since March 12 or because they were deemed nonessential and could not operate, Marquez said. Applications for the grants open on June 8.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the maximum grant award amount small businesses can receive.