Missouri City residents and business owners have the opportunity for COVID-19 relief funding after the city approved putting a portion of its federal aid toward public outreach initiatives.

City Manager Odis Jones said using the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act dollars on a rental, mortgage and utility assistance program for residents and a small-business assistance program will alleviate some of the financial burden caused by pandemic-related closures and job loss.

“It is very important for the city and for our residents and our business community that we come out of this thing stronger than we went into it,” Jones said.

Missouri City initially received $4.1 million of federal funding, which was distributed to the city from both Fort Bend and Harris counties based on the city’s population.

However, the city accepted another $2 million allotment from Fort Bend County during its Nov. 2 meeting. This additional $2 million can be used exclusively for the residential rent, mortgage and utilities assistance program and the small-business assistance program, according to city documents.

Assistant City Manager Bill Atkinson confirmed the additional $2 million of funding became available because other Fort Bend County cities were not using their allotted dollars.

“The county Commissioners Court with Commissioner [Grady] Prestage leading the way directed those dollars toward Missouri City,” Council Member Floyd Emery said.

In accordance with the federal coronavirus relief package, which passed Congress in March, the city is eligible to be reimbursed for certain coronavirus-related expenses incurred prior to Dec. 30.

Of the city’s available federal funding, City Council unanimously approved setting aside $500,000 for the residential rent, mortgage and utilities assistance program and $1.5 million to aid small businesses with their leases or mortgages at its Oct. 5 meeting.

During the Nov. 2 meeting, council redirected $500,000 from the small-business program to the rent, mortgage and utilities assistance program because $464,753 of the available funding for the residential program had already been exhausted. While the total funding for both programs currently stands at $1 million, city staff said they will decide how to divide the additional $2 million between the programs based on need.

“Thankfully people are taking advantage of the [rental, mortgage and utilities assistance] program,” Council Member Jeffrey Boney said at the Nov. 2 meeting.

Federal money will also be spent on the city’s contract with MPACT Strategic Consulting, the firm managing both assistance programs.

The application for the rental, mortgage and utility assistance program opened Sept. 28, and Jones said about 561 applications had been submitted as of Oct. 28. Households are eligible to receive up to $2,000 per month for rent or mortgage payments and $500 for utility payments for a maximum of two months.

Boney also commended the city for supporting small businesses with the federal funding.

“The grant funds are desperately needed,” Boney said during an October City Council meeting. “They cannot have enough because of what they’ve had to endure by closing their doors over the months that they had to deal with COVID.”

As of Oct. 28, approximately 110 Missouri City businesses had applied for the small-business assistance program, which launched Oct. 11. Eligible businesses can receive grants for up to $20,000 to cover select expenses—including leases or mortgages and potentially employee payroll—for the remainder of the year.

“These grants are important to us because we took a pretty hard hit due to COVID. Everything we had cakes for—parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs—were canceled,” Sweets in the Sky bakery owner Jonathan Lindsley said in a virtual small-business meeting.

Applications for the programs will be accepted until Nov. 22 or until all the aid has been dispersed. Find eligibility requirements and more information on the Missouri City website.

In addition to the public outreach programs, Missouri City federal coronavirus relief funds will be spent on personal protective equipment, first-responder safety equipment, ultraviolet sanitizing entryways and technological upgrades.