The Commissioners Court approved in a 4-0 vote an amendment to the Fort Bend County COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program to expand the program, which launched June 15. Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage was absent from the meeting.
Under the amendment, the total amount of funds available for small-business grants has increased from $22 million to $38 million, according to the motion read by Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers. An additional $1 million will go to consultants who will help minority-owned businesses apply for the grants, he confirmed via email.
The approved amendment also expanded the eligibility criteria so more business can apply. Under the amendment, the following the changes have been implemented:
- Eligible businesses include those with up to 50 employees. Previously, only businesses with up to 10 employees were eligible.
- Eligible businesses include those who have received assistance from the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Previously, only businesses who had not received this assistance were eligible.
- Businesses do not have to experience a revenue loss because of the pandemic to be eligible. Previously, only businesses that experienced a 25% or more revenue loss from the pandemic were eligible.
- Businesses with annual sales between $25,000-$5 million are eligible. Previously, only businesses with revenue of $100,000-$2 million could apply.
- Grant amounts range from $5,000-$25,000. Previously, grant amounts were limited to $10,000.
The county will have to temporarily pause accepting applications for a few hours to update the application process and form online, County Auditor Ed Sturdivant said at the June 22 court meeting. As of 8 a.m. June 24, the county's website is not accepting applications and states it will reopen at 8:30 a.m. June 25.
Under these expansions, the total number of businesses the grant program can assist is about 2,500, Sturdivant said.
The program’s initial $22 million was estimated to help about 2,200 businesses, said Jeffrey C. Wiley, the president and CEO of the Fort Bend County Economic Development Council, during a June 12 webinar about how to apply for the grants.
At the time of the court meeting, the county had received a total of 721 applications for the small-grant program, Sturdivant said.
Funding for the Fort Bend County COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program comes from federal and county funds, specifically the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the Fort Bend County COVID-19 budget, according to the motion read by Meyers. The county received a total of $134.3 million from the federal coronavirus relief bill.