SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Minority entrepreneurs and small business owners in San Marcos, who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, now can apply for grants with the city.

“This is a program that’s designed to provide direct aid to minority-owned businesses here in San Marcos. The city council appropriated about $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, specifically for this purpose,” said Economic and Business Development Manager Christian Smith.

The program is called the Minority Business Stabilization Fund.

It is aimed at offering minority-owned businesses financial help to pay for operating costs, payroll, rent and other eligible expenses.

“Applicants must meet eligibility requirements to be considered for funding, including continual operation of the business within the corporate limits of San Marcos for at least 12 months before the grant request. A complete application requires applicants to submit a W-9,” the release said.

Grant awards range from $1,000 for self-employed entrepreneurs to $10,000 for minority-owned businesses that have up to 25 full-time employees.

Business eligibility

According to the city, in order to be considered for the grant a business must meet the following guidelines:

  • Business must be located within the corporate limits of San Marcos
  • Continual operation of business in San Marcos for at least 12 months before grant request
  • Employ 1-25 full-time employees across all locations
  • Business is independently owned and operated
  • Business is at least 51% unconditionally owned by a socially disadvantaged individual and the management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more disadvantaged individuals
  • Applicant is not an elected official or employee of the city, or married to an elected official or employee of the city
  • If the business is a franchise, eligibility is limited to a single location of the franchise

A business can only get one grant awarded to them. Applicants are reviewed on a “first-come, first-served basis.”

Smith said the money cannot be used to pay taxes or settle debt.

“You could certainly use these funds for your operating expenses and use those savings if there are other areas that need that attention as well,” Smith said.

Smith said they’ve already had 29 businesses apply since the program went live last week.

“We’ve printed flyers for distribution to go out and spread word of mouth,” Smith said. “Folks can apply either directly on our website, and we’ve printed out physical applications.”

‘Very supportive’

Mohammad Zakzok is the owner of Middle Eastern restaurant The Halal Project.

He’s bringing a bit of his Palestinian heritage to the San Marcos area.

“It’s a modern twist to Middle Eastern cuisine,” Zakzok said. “We actually bring all of our seasonings and all of our marinades from Palestine. We ship everything here to try to get everything as authentic as it could possibly be.”

Zakzok said with three different locations around Central Texas, costs add up quickly.

“From vegetables, you know, all of our produce, and all of the meats,” Zakzok said. “Everything has went up drastically over the past year. In some cases, some things have even doubled.”

Zakzok said this new program will give businesses in the area some much-needed relief.

“I’m happy to be part of such a cozy, beautiful city,” Zakzok said. “With the city being very supportive with all businesses coming into the area.”

Other programs in existence and in the works

Smith said the city has a number of other business support programs it runs.

“One of the biggest ones that we’re proud of is called our Think BIG program. That’s a partnership that the city secured with BCL, Business and Community Lenders of Texas,” Smith said. “So they provide one-on-one direct business counseling and financial consulting at no cost to businesses here in San Marcos. They have options available to help identify sources of capital as well.”

Along with that, Smith said they have a number of other programs in the works as well.

“One is our legacy business program that we’re really excited about. We’re hoping to launch that quickly. But this is a way to honor our historic businesses here in San Marcos that had been a part of our community for at least 20 years, who make a real imprint on the culture here,” Smith said.

Another grant funding initiative in the pipeline is for sustainable resources programs to help incentivize and reward businesses that want to make environmentally conscious improvements to their business.

“We want to make sure that businesses aren’t put in a position where they have to close down,” Smith said. “We want people not just to be able to open businesses here, but to have them grow and thrive, and to employ and provide great opportunities not just for our consumers, but for our folks who are employees here as well.”