Bexar County will give $20 million in direct relief to small businesses and nonprofits, drawn from funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Business advocates hope the program will help those who were ineligible for a similar relief program from the City of San Antonio.
County commissioners approved the measure on Tuesday, which stipulates that a $10 million fund be created for direct relief to small business and a second $10 million fund for nonprofits. Commissioners also approved two other items related to ARPA funding: $20 million for affordable housing and $5 million for arts organizations.
The funding will “bring serious relief to small businesses and non-profits still suffering from the effects of the pandemic,” said LiftFund founder Janie Barrera in a prepared statement. LiftFund, a San Antonio-based microlender and counselor for small businesses, has been made responsible for dispersing the funding, though application details have yet to be hammered out.
Barrera continued, “As we have from the beginning, LiftFund is ready to help businesses access the funds, knowing that each dollar will help not only the small businesses themselves, but also the jobs, families and communities that they support.”
LiftFund is also administering a similar small business relief program for the city also funded by ARPA money. The $17 million city program allowed eligible businesses to apply for grants from $15,000 to $35,000, with additional funding for those negatively affected by ongoing construction.
The county’s program will be available to businesses located outside city limits, such as those in Alamo Heights or Leon Valley.
Marina Gonzales, president and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said in a letter the chamber sent to the city that its program’s requirement that a business must see a revenue decline was too restrictive and should be replaced with a requirement for a decline in profit, because of distortions caused by inflation. Additionally, she said some industries were wrongfully excluded, like small consulting firms.
“We’re hoping the county will be more accessible to our community at large,” she said.
The county’s approved plan already establishes a broad outline for eligibility. For example, small businesses must have annual gross revenues of at least $10,000 but not more than $3 million. They must have seen a decrease in gross sales between 2019 and 2020, or 2019 and 2021. They must have been created before the beginning of 2020. The plan also prohibits businesses from certain industries, such as “sexually oriented businesses,” gambling establishments, payday lenders and real estate investment.
Grant awards would be on a sliding scale, between a maximum of $15,000 and $35,000, determined by the business’s loss in annual revenue.
The goal of the federal ARPA program was to give resources to local governments they could then use to provide economic relief to those impacted by the pandemic, as well as to address more longstanding economic and health-related disparities.
Disclosure: LiftFund founder Janie Barrera is a member of the San Antonio Report’s board of directors.