Travis County has identified the first round of small businesses to which it will offer aid from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding. County commissioners voted at a Sept. 8 meeting to approve 225 businesses to receive funding through the county’s $9 million Small Business Grant Program established in May.

“I know there was a lot of unhappiness, particularly from some elected officials in western Travis County that we weren’t getting the funds out to them quickly enough, but I think it’s important to note that we have gotten the funds to small businesses in their communities,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said at the meeting, referencing Travis County’s distribution of the federal funding to the county’s small cities.

According to Christy Moffett, the managing director of economic and strategic planning for the county, Travis County received 1,543 inquiries from businesses about the grant program. Some of those businesses were located in the city of Austin and were redirected to apply for the city’s grant program because Travis County’s program is reserved for businesses in the county’s small cities and unincorporated areas.

A consulting organization, Business & Community Lenders of Texas, was hired to help administer the application process and the program.

A total of 434 businesses applied, and of those, 335 were deemed eligible. BCL, along with a Travis County review committee, ranked the eligible businesses based on a number of factors, including need and strategies in place to use the funding. Staff also prioritized women- and minority-owned businesses and sought to select a variety of types of businesses located throughout the county.

The 225 selected small businesses will be offered up to $40,000 each. If any business declines its award, it will be offered to one of 110 waitlisted businesses. Selected businesses have 30 days to finalize a budget and contract with the county. If any business chooses not to accept its full $40,000 award, those savings will be offered to up to 25 additional businesses.

“Each business will also receive business coaching and continuity planning, so in addition to the financial assistance that this program will provide, we’re also looking for some resiliency to be built in to assist for the long haul,” Moffett said.

The funding provided must be spent by Dec. 15, but businesses are able to recoup costs from March onward.