Absent Bill Goodwin, former president of the Bee Cave Economic Development Board who resigned the same day as the meeting March 30, the board met to discuss ways to help small businesses hit hard by the ongoing social distancing mandates of state and local governments.
Board members discussed a plan from the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce that seeks to help supplement economic relief provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed into law March 27.
The CARES Act provides aid for employees filing for unemployment compensation in Texas with an additional $600 per week, according to information from the chamber, which states that federal supplement expires after four months.
The act also helps “gig workers,” such as ride-hailing drivers, with compensation for lost work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, small businesses may apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But in anticipation of possible labyrinthine procedures small-business owners may have to navigate to access those funds, city leaders have proposed additional support.
“For the average small business, qualifying [for] these programs is going to be a daunting challenge, and the banks are already overwhelmed with requests for assistance,” information from the chamber states.
In an effort to further aid small businesses in Bee Cave, the chamber has outlined an action plan for additional assistance that was included in the EDB’s March 30 agenda.
The plan would utilize area librarians to provide information and staff a Small Business Assistance Center that would assist business owners in need of aid, among other functions.
According to information from the chamber, this could be funded through EDB coffers and even considered for permanent continuation.
The program would also help employers with rent assistance, providing an emergency rent grant program for the interim between when social distancing restrictions are lifted and federal assistance monies are paid out.
The third facet of the chamber’s plan lays out a campaign to prioritize the sale of gift cards and proposes publishing a list of businesses still selling them.
“The sale of gift cards provides immediate income to a small business,” the plan states. “Many gift cards are never used, so they can represent pure profit to the business.”
The plan proposes installing a plea to urge consumers to purchase gift cards on Bee Cave’s website with a suggestion to buy one and never use it.
Andrea Willott, a City Council member and an EDB director, said she is in favor of both the SBAC operation and the rent assistance program.
As one idea on how to help Bee Cave’s small businesses, Willott also discussed a resolution from Gonzalez, a city that she said has a similar population. The Gonzalez draft resolution authorizes certain financial assistance up to $500,000 as a line of credit or other assistance for businesses in the city.
Willott said it could be wise to draft a resolution similar to the one created by Gonzalez officials as soon as possible, but with a maximum of $1 million instead of $500,000, and businesses within Bee Cave’s extraterritorial jurisdiction should be included within the document.
The city’s current fund balance, through which the assistance could come, is right now at $3.884 million according to Garza.
A motion passed unanimously to have a draft of a resolution similar to that created in Gonzalez, but potentially allocating $1 million for local businesses by the next EDB meeting, which would be no sooner than April 3.
The EDB will also be taking further action on the chamber’s SBAC plan after council takes action on the proposal.
“I want to send the message to our business owners that we are in the process of this,” EDB Director Andrew Clark said.