City Council approves utility assistance loans

Only small businesses along Blanco Rd. project are eligible

Small business affected by street contruction projects may soon be able to apply for loans to partially pay utility bills.
Small business affected by street contruction projects may soon be able to apply for loans to partially pay utility bills.

At its meeting Thursday, the San Antonio City Council approved a pilot program that would make utility assistance loans available to small businesses impacted by the $21 million widening of Blanco Road.

"They'd pay some. We would pay some as the city. Then after construction is over, they would reimburse the city," said Mike Frisbie, city engineer.

He said the no interest, no penalty loans would help pay for utility bills from April through August when the project that began 18 months ago, is scheduled for completion.

Frisbie said once the work is done businesses will have up to a year to pay off the loan by making monthly payments.

He said only small business owners along a portion of Blanco Road north of Hildebrand would be eligible if they can prove a 15 percent loss in their gross revenue because of the ongoing construction.

Project Map

"For a six-month period, we had traffic only moving in one direction, in one lane," Frisbie said.

However, three City Council members, Ron Nirenberg of District 8, Ivy Taylor of District 2 and Rebecca Viagran of District 3, voted against the pilot program.

During the meeting, they voiced concern about setting a precedent, and besides SAWS and CPS Energy already have their own utility assistance programs.

But Susie Beltran, co-owner of Plazas restaurant for 25 years, said the loss of business forced her to lay off longtime employees and cut back her hours of operation.

Beltran said as a result, she's had a hard time paying the CPS Energy bill.

"We were behind three months, behind two months. We're behind a month right now," Beltran said.

Beltran said she welcomes the city's offer.

"We are fine with it. This is the time that we need it. Our business will pick up," she said.

Yet Jesus Huerta, who sells party rental supplies on Blanco Road, said he's not interested.

"I don't want to be late on my payments," he said.  

Huerta said he can't afford a loan on top of keeping up with his bills.

Frisbie said many are like Huerta, unable to make double payments later on.

He said that's why he predicts few takers for a share of up to $225,000 allocated by the city for pilot program.

Images: Blanco Rd. construction