City to accept applications from local businesses for $2500 grants
The city of Sulphur Springs will be establishing a program to assist small businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per a resolution by the city council at their regular July meeting on Tuesday, July 7.
After the disbursement of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, the city of Sulphur Springs received $890,945 based on its size and population, according to city finance director Lesa Smith.
Due to federal and state law, $660,000 of these funds may be used for public safety and public health, Smith said. In Sulphur Springs, this means police and fire departments, Smith said.
With the other approximately $220,000 not earmarked, the city wanted to give back to the small business community, according to Mayor John Sellers and city manager Marc Maxwell.
Therefore, the city will make available 88 grants worth $2500 each for small business assistance.
Companies that can apply must have more than one employee but less than 50 employees, according to city documents. They must not be a publicly traded company, and must fall under the umbrella of food, retail or general service industry sectors.
Businesses must have been physically located within the city limits of Sulphur Springs on or before December 13, 2019. Businesses must complete all required paperwork, and to receive the grant, must remain open for at least 90 days after funds have been disbursed, documents stated.
Applications for grants will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, documents stated. Home-based, non-profit, churches and publicly traded companies are ineligible, documents outline.
“This will be consistent with CARES act funding and similar to PPP [Paycheck Protection Program],” said community development director Tory Niewiadomski. “This is a grant, though… this is no fashion a loan, this is a pure grant.”
“Economic assistance is an appropriate use of these funds given to cities, states and counties,” Smith agreed. “Businesses are only required to show financial impact from the virus.”
The city estimates there are approximately 225 small businesses in the community that are eligible to receive the grants.
“Proportionately, about a third of those who apply will receive a grant,” Niewiadomski stated.
“We wanted to keep it [financial grant] at a level where it has some impact,” Sellers noted. “If we gave out $200, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal.”
“We’re in good company, we feel, because other places have done this,” Maxwell noted. “We’re substantially dedicating a portion of our CARES funding to our police and fire payroll, and now we feel comfortable moving forward.”
The city currently does not have a timeline for businesses to receive grant money, but will keep businesses updated as the Texas Department of Emergency Management disburses funds.
The motivations behind the program have been Hopkins County’s small business owners themselves, Maxwell said.
“We’ve heard stories from merchants all around town about how they’re just hanging on,” Maxwell said. “In the beginning, we really wanted to do something, but didn’t see how we could. Now, it’s clear how we can make a difference. We wanted to jump on it.”
Smith told the council, "we know our small businesses were hurt, and they're probably still hurting."
“We just wanted to give the small business that extra little bit of help,” Sellers noted. “We want them to know we’re there for them if we can be.”
Sellers noted that as a banker, he had “seen a lot of success in the local banks” with the PPP program. Niewiadomski noted that “sales tax hadn’t been as bad as what we’d predicted.”
“People were good and creative during the time we were totally closed,” Sellers said. “We heard from some them they actually did pretty well… Hopefully this can give them more of the boost.”
Applications for the Small Business Assistance Program can be picked up in person or downloaded on the city’s website, but must be returned in person to the Water Utility Office at 125 S. Davis St. between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting Wednesday, July 8.