City Council Passes Small Business Economic Relief Fund

As the chairperson of the City of Houston’s Economic Development Committee, I am ecstatic to share that Mayor Turner and members of Houston City Council today passed the City’s Small Business Economic Relief Program (SBERP), which will be funded with $15 million of the City’s allocated CARES Act 2020 funds.
 
The program is for small businesses that are most in financial need and exhibit a moderate to high likelihood of surviving the pandemic’s adverse impacts. The City also encourages local chambers of commerce to apply.
 
The maximum amount a business or chamber can receive is $50,000. A business may use the funds for payroll, accounts payable, rent, mortgage, PPE for employees, marketing strategies, including creating an online presence and other sales alternatives.
 
“We know small businesses throughout Houston have suffered greatly due to the global pandemic, and it could take months or years before the business climate returns to normal,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “I thank Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Castex-Tatum and other council members for bringing this program forward. We are working on other relief packages that will keep us Houston Strong as we navigate the public health crisis.”
 
Working with the City’s Office of Business Opportunity, the Houston Business Development, Inc. (HBDi), will administer the program and develop a marketing strategy, accept and process applications electronically, develop a scoring matrix and provide regular progress reporting and metrics to OBO.
 
HBDi is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation established in 1986 by the City of Houston. The corporation’s mission is to stimulate economic growth, support the expansion of small businesses, combat community deterioration and foster employment opportunities for low-moderate income citizens in the Houston metropolitan area and surrounding counties.
 
To qualify for the SBERP, business owners must meet the following requirements:
  • Must be a business whose principal place of business is located within city limits of the City of Houston.
  • Must have been in business for at least one (1) year for the last year.
  • Must provide evidence of how business revenue has significantly decreased because of government restrictions or other challenges due to COVID-19.
  • A business qualifies if it generated $2 million or less in gross annual revenue pre-COVID-19.
  • Must be in good standing regarding City requirements (e.g. property taxes, personal property, grounds for debarment, etc).
  • Must commit to completing the technical assistance component of this program provided via contractor.
  • These eligibility standards may be modified for applicants who are chambers of commerce with OBO Director approval.
 
“The SBERP will help all sizes of small businesses move one step closer toward financial recovery. This program is intended to maximize the long-term, positive impact of these small businesses on our local economy through their contribution to job retention and the continued availability of their services,” said Marsha Murray, director for the Office of Business Opportunity. “If our local small businesses did not qualify for other federal or local programs, or did not receive enough funds to mitigate the impact of the crisis, we encourage them to apply for this program.”
 
The City of Houston anticipates HDBi will begin accepting applications within the next two weeks as we work to finalize details. In the meantime small business owners are encouraged to visit the OBO webpage which contains the FAQs about the program. We know our small businesses have been impacted greatly through this pandemic and hopefully these funds will help to sustain many of them through this time.

Don’t Miss the Back to School Fest presented by Shell in District K

The 10th Annual Mayor’s Back to School Fest presented by Shell will take place on today and Saturday, August 7-8, 2020 in the NRG Park Yellow Lot. To accommodate the growing number of students who need assistance, this year’s Back to School Fest will be a“drive-through” event over a two-day period.
 
Registration is recommended for participation in the fest:
 
The annual fest presented by Shell Oil Company provides Houston area elementary students and their families with some of the tools they need to start the school year off right. In addition to distributing 25,000 backpacks with school supplies, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events has partnered with the Houston Food Bank to provide food to the students’ families. Additionally, the Mayor’s Health Equity Response (H.E.R.) Task Force will distribute face masks to ensure a safe return to school.
 
If you or anyone you know is in need of supplies to start the school year, register and come by to pick up your supplies.

More Rent Relief is Coming for Houstonians

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council approved a $20 million rent relief package to help Houstonians who cannot pay rent due to economic challenges caused by COVID-19.
 
Funding for the City’s second rental relief package includes $15 million from the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, and $5 million from private donors:
  • $2 million from the Houston Endowment
  • $1 million from the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund
  • $1 million from the Kinder Foundation
  • $1 million from Texans owner and co-founder Janice McNair
The City plans to set aside $500,000 for Lone Star Legal Aid and for those who need assistance, but do not qualify for CARES Act dollars.
 
Criteria to qualify for rental relief program:
  • must live in the City of Houston and be behind on rent payments for August or prior months and cannot pay the rent due to economic challenges caused by COVID-19
  • must live in the City of Houston and behind on rent payments for August or prior months and cannot pay the rent due to economic challenges caused by COVID-19
  • Even if only one tenant in an apartment complex qualifies for rental assistance, the no eviction rule applies to all tenants on the property
  • For more information visit HoustonRentAssistance.org.

More Space Program

This week the Houston City Council approved the More Space Program presented by the Houston Planning Department. The program allows restaurants to convert 50% of their off-street parking spaces to space to serve customers, while COVID-19 space restrictions are in effect. This expanded outdoor dining space will provide much needed relief to restaurants, while still allowing Houstonians to patronize these businesses while following health and safety guidance. You can find more information on the More Space Program page, including best practices for restaurants at http://houstontx.gov/planning/MoreSpace.html.
 
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact David Fields or send an email to morespace@houstontx.gov. Let’s continue to support our restaurants safely.

COVID Testing at Butler Stadium

Testing is important in order to slow community spread; especially asymptomatic transmissions. The City of Houston offers several free testing sites across Houston.
 
Butler Stadium, in District K no longer requires an appointment for testing. 650 tests are still available each day. Just drive up if you want to get tested. The address is 13755 S Main, 77035.
 
The Harris County Area Agency on Aging is now offering COVID-19 in home health testing. To qualify you must be an older adult 60 years and over, a person with disabilities and/or a veteran; all must be homebound. The toll free number to call is 800-213-8471 and the Intake number for assistance is 832-393-4301.
 
Visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 for more information about free testing sites in Houston. Stay safe!

District K Census 2020 Update

The City of Houston’s response rate improved slightly from 52.3% to 53.6%. The latest Census report shows 10 Houston districts (E, K, C, G, D, A, F, B, H and I) have response rates higher than 50%. The City of Houston still lags behind Harris County, TX and the national average, but districts K, E, D, C and G are still outperforming the rest of the state. The overall self-response rate in the US increased from 61.6% to 61.8% between June 22and June 28th. District K improved from 57% to 59%. Find your census track and see how your neighborhood is performing. To view an interactive version of this map visit: januaryadvisors.com/census-2020-houston-response-rates/
 
It’s not too late, you can still complete the census today. It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail- all without having to meet a census taker. Today you can respond online, by phone or by mail. Hundreds of thousands of temporary census takers will use smartphones to follow up with households that don’t respond. Say YES to Census 2020. www.my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020 to complete over the phone.

Happy Anniversary Braeswood Farmers Market

Come celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the Braeswood Farmers Market on Saturday, August 15th from 9:00am to 1:00pm. This is an event you do not want to miss. All of the ALL STAR vendors and some surprises will be there. COVID precautions and best practices will apply. There will be raffles, gifts, music and lots of great food and fun. See you there! 5401 South Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77096.