In the “better late than never” department, the City of Houston officially launched its Harvey Economic Development Program today. The program offers aid to small businesses damaged by Harvey. This comes four years after the storm that brought Houston and thousands of its businesses to their knees.
This is kind of like sending out birth announcements for someone’s funeral – a little late. If it weren’t for the fact that most of the impacted small businesses who really needed this help probably died after the storm, like those above, I would be laughing now instead of crying.
Without further editorial comment, I will simply reprint the press release that I received this morning.
Text of Press Release
Headline: City of Houston officially launches Harvey Economic Development Program
Subhead: City’s small business revitalization effort makes first awards to restore capacity to microenterprises impacted by Harvey
Exact Text: The City of Houston has awarded its first small business grants through the Harvey Economic Development Program, part of the City’s long-term recovery plan. The program offers up to $150,000 to small businesses that suffered damages during Hurricane Harvey. The first awards – totaling $562K – went to six local business owners, including three women-owned construction companies, an oil and gas supply company, a real estate agency, and a women-owned transportation firm.
“A big part of building a more resilient city is attending to the recovery needs of small business owners, especially minority and women-owned, who may not have the resources to fully recover otherwise,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “These small businesses bring jobs, support community growth, and help build a strong network of entrepreneurship, especially for disadvantaged communities. While this program directly invests in business owners, we will build our entire city forward as a result.”
The program provides aid to businesses that are most vulnerable and have limited access to capital, specifically focusing on microenterprises — businesses of 1-5 employees. Qualifying microenterprises must have been in businesses at the time of the storm, be current on federal business taxes, and have proof of Hurricane Harvey’s impact.
“The impact of external shocks like Harvey sets business owners, particularly small minority- and women-owned businesses, back for years to come,” explained Dr. Paula Pineda, who leads the Economic Development team at the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department. “Serving microenterprises exclusively has allowed us to assist Houston’s ‘mom and pop’ small businesses that were disproportionately set back and yet disproportionately excluded from resources such as the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan.”
Approximately $2.5 million in grants are in the approval pipeline, with awards ranging from a minimum of $75,000 to the maximum amount of $150,000. The program is succeeding in soliciting applications – 200 since its soft launch – from historically disadvantaged businesses: the majority of applicants are minority-owned and/or women-owned. All applicants who receive the City’s recommendation must be approved by the Texas General Land Office, which has been a strong supporter of the City’s microenterprise initiative.
A total of $24.9 million has been allocated for the Small Business Grants program, which aims to serve between 150 and 250 microenterprises. The Harvey Economic Development Program is one of eight prongs of the City’s $835 million Harvey recovery effort, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and managed by the City’s Housing and Community Development Department.
Information on the Harvey Economic Development Program, including eligibility details and the application, are available at recovery.houstontx.gov/hedp. There, small businesses can also find a plethora of resources, including assistance with taxes, computer access, and federal requirements. Applications will remain open through the end of 2021 or until funds have been depleted.
The City of Houston Housing and Community Development (HCDD) makes long-term investments to better the lives of Houston residents by creating opportunities for every Houstonian to have a home they can afford in a community where they can thrive. Our department will spend approximately $450 million in federal, state, and local funding this fiscal year to construct and maintain affordable homes, reduce barriers to homeownership, support the work of social service providers, build public amenities, and facilitate disaster recovery efforts. Learn more about programs and resources for Houstonians at www.houstontx.gov/housing.
- Those who apply should ensure they have all the documents requested in the application. HUD required dozens of docs for housing assistance. But 36% of the applications had NO supporting documentation.
- The deadline is December 31, 2021 11:59 PM (CST).
- The so-called soft-launch started February 15. It took more than 6 months. Now, after the official launch, only 4 months are left.
- This tardiness of this program makes a great case for “business interruption insurance.” Small business owners should ask their insurance agents what that is and also ask for a quote. I got it for my business about a year before Hurricane Ike knocked out power in the Lake Houston Area for three weeks. It was a lifesaver. And it didn’t take four or five years to recoup lost income.
- Someone needs to coordinate the copy in the City’s website, the City’s press releases and the State’s approved action plan. For instance, the action plan lists the maximum award at $250,000. The website says $100,000 in one place and $150,000 right next to the first mention. The press release says $75,000 to $150,000. Another example: The City’s website says 400-500 businesses have already been served. But the press releases says the City has only solicited 200 applications. And the City’s Pipeline Report shows none are in the works. It doesn’t even list the program.
For the launch of an important new economic development program, you would expect these details to be worked out.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/28/2021
1458 Days since Hurricane Harvey