Williamson County approves $10M in grants for small businesses in some industries

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Many small restaurant, bar and hotel businesses in Williamson County may have some much-needed cash coming their way.

Williamson County has approved $10 million in grants for these industries — the second-round of planned small business grants.

The first $35 million grant program was given last June to all small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The county processed about 3,300 grants totaling just over $34 million.

“Those are the industries that have been most effective by the governor’s orders that are expiring [March 10]. Our bars and restaurants have been limited either 50% or 75% occupancy, or it’s sometimes zero for a year,” said Williamson County Treasurer Scott Heselmeyer.

$93M CARES Act funding; What’s left

The $10 million is coming from the initial $93 million in Cares Act funds the county received for coronavirus aid back in April. Prior to its March 9 approval of grants, Williamson County had about $20 million in funds left to spend.

“Everything is starting to open up. Wednesday is the day where everybody can open up to 100%, said Heselmeyer. “Naturally, it’s going to take some time for people to get vaccinated and feel comfortable. We’re kinda at a point where we are at a hump and need to get some businesses over it.”

The new grants cap at a certain amount of employees. Businesses who apply can receive $500 per employee and up to $10,000. The online application process will be similar to the first round, but a third-party partner will assist in processing the applications this time to lessen the load on the county.

Businesses open prior to Dec. 1, 2019 must prove that their average monthly gross income for 2020 was at least 25% lower than 2019. Businesses open Dec. 1, 2019 or later must prove they were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are businesses that are hurting that aren’t going to be eligible for this program right now, but we are hoping to do more as we go further down the line” said Heselmeyer.

The American Rescue Act Funding- $1.9 trillion stimulus package

In Washington, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed Wednesday which puts President Biden on track to sign it. Williamson County is projecting it will receive $114.5 million as part of the American Rescue Act.

“We don’t yet know what the parameters on that bill will be. What we are learning is about half of it will be administered within the next 60 to 90 days,” said Heselmeyer. “We know that we could use it for similar purposes that we did the Cares Act money. We also know there are more purposes, but we don’t have guidance yet on what that is.”

Heselmeyer says that program will be much harder to administer.

“I think what’s coming out of this bill in my personal opinion is too much. As we have done here in Williamson County, we will do so responsible. It’s difficult to fathom how we will use that kind of money at this stage in the pandemic.”

Individual cities to get stimulus money

Individual cities within Williamson County are also projected to receive some of the federal funding, a change from the initial round of Cares Act funding.

“What we did in Williamson County is we set up a budget to reimburse our cities for their [COVID-related] expenses,” said Heselmeyer. “What we found is, we have used less than half of the budget. Our cities’ expenses have not been that significant. In part because of responsible spending by our cities.”

According to the National Association of Counties projections Round Rock, Georgetown and Cedar Park are expected to receive $17 million in American Rescue Act funding.

“This is a lot of money to multiple different entities. There’s’ a lot that can be done with it, but when you have that much money to multiple different entities… there’s going to be waste,” said Heselmeyer.

If the $1.9 trillion stimulus passes, then cities and counties would have until December 2024 to spend it all.

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