The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved a $10 million second round program March 9 for area businesses in food, drink and lodging industries that have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the second small-business grant program the county will operate with this program focusing on food and bar businesses as well as hotels and motels. The first took place in June and was a $35 million grant program open to all small businesses with less than 100 employees.

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

Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that beginning March 10 all businesses will be able to operate at 100%. He also rescinded the statewide mask mandate, but owners can choose to enforce a mask mandate within their business.

The money for the program would come from the initial approximately $93 million the county received in coronavirus relief aid funding in April. As of March 9 and prior to allocating money to the new grant program, the county had about $20 million remaining.

Heselmeyer made note that through the American Rescue Act—the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package for COVID-19 recovery efforts expected to be signed by President Joe Biden during the week of March 8—the county anticipates to receive an additional $114.5 million.

If that pans out, Heselmeyer said the county may look to offer financial assistance to other struggling business sectors.

This second round of grants will be based on number of employees. Businesses who apply will receive $500 per employee up to $10,000. Applicants must submit a copy of their fourth quarter 2020 Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Tax Report and the highest employment between October and December 2020 will be used, Heselmeyer said.

Heselmeyer said the county has set up an online application, similar to the first round of small-business grants. He added that he is working to partner with a third party to assist with the clerical processing of the applications.

Businesses who received a Round 1 grant but have not submitted follow-up documentation will need to do so before receiving Round 2 funding, Heselmeyer said.

Eligibility for the program is as follows:

  • must be a food service, bar, hotel or motel;

  • must be physically located in Williamson County;

  • must have Williamson County Food Establishment or Mobile Food Establishment permit, TABC on-premises license or caterers permit or pay Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax;

  • food service and/or bar establishments must receive at least 50% of income from sale of food and/or beverages; and

  • businesses that sell fuel do not qualify.

In addition, businesses that opened before Dec. 1, 2019, must certify that average monthly gross income for 2020 was at least 25% lower than 2019. Business that opened Dec. 1, 2019, or later must certify significant effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program has not yet launched, but Heselmeyer said he believes it will around March 16.