Coronavirus relief funding heading to 225 small businesses in Travis County

Investigations

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — After reviewing hundreds of applications for the Travis County Thrive program, county commissioners approved a list of 225 businesses to receive up to $40,000 in coronavirus relief funds.

According to documents submitted to Travis County Commissioners Court this week, more than 90% of the chosen businesses are owned by a women or a minority, or they are located in under-served areas of the county.

Travis County staff worked with the organization Business and Community Leaders of Texas to cull through the 1,050 business owners who completed the pre-application process. They determined 434 applicants were eligible for review.

A spokesperson for the county said, “The program is helping locally owned mom-and-pop shops that are in Travis County, but outside the Austin city limits.”

One applicant, Jeff Arnold, owns a home staging company Sought + Found. He said his business has been struggling to cover rent on their large warehouse in the northern part of the county. He said he was thrilled when he got the call about qualifying for the grant.

“Hopefully it’s a simple process, and the reimbursements are handled quickly and efficiently,” Arnold told KXAN.

He said application processes for many coronavirus relief funds and grants are far from simple.

Over the next 30 days, recipients will be working with the county to determine their budget and how much of the available $40,000 they will get. The awardees can use the funds to make rent, lease or mortgage payments, for payroll expenses, pay their bills or pay for personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies.

The 225 grant recipients were given a “score” based on several criteria, and more points were awarded to:

  • Applicants who had not received other COVID-19 benefits for their business
  • Applicants with higher revenue loss
  • Applicants who demonstrated willingness to consider operational changes, if appropriate, to support long term success
  • Applicants with less errors on their application
  • Applicants who demonstrated Community Benefits to Travis County residents, outside of their normal business operations
  • Minority-owned businesses, female owned businesses, businesses owned by or employed low to moderate income residents, or businesses located in a low-to-moderate income census tracts

A KXAN analysis of the top 225 scorers showed more than 30 restaurants, bakeries and other food and beverage service providers qualified — more than any other industry.

More than 25 of the top scorers identified as arts and entertainment businesses. Just under 25 top scorers were beauty salons, nail salons and spas.

More than 20 of the 225 recipients were health care, medicine or therapy providers. Recreational businesses, gyms and child care centers also proved to be top scorers.

Commissioners also approved two different “wait lists” filled with businesses who could gain access to the program, if the first 225 businesses don’t utilize the full $9 million currently set aside. The Travis County Thrive program will “max out” after 250 businesses are helped.

The City of Austin offered a similar small business relief program. KXAN Investigators found some local businesses were awarded the full $40,000 available and other five-figure totals, while others were awarded far less. One business reported receiving $29.94 for PPE reimbursements.

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