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Bexar County commissioners approve $1.5M more for small business grants

Additional $5M meant for loans could also be redirected to grants

SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Commissioners Court approved another $1.5 million on Tuesday to be used for small business grants after previously approved $5.25 million loan and grant programs were tapped dry.

The new round of grants will use money from the federal CARES Act to provide up to $10,000 grants to businesses with five or fewer employees. An additional $5 million in federal money the county originally planned to use for loans could also end up redirected for grants, although county staff still need to present a plan for it.

“If we talk about up to $10,000 per small business, that’s 150 small businesses that we can help right away,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez.

As with the original $5 million loan and $250,000 grant programs commissioners approved in March, the new grants will be administered by the not-for-profit lender LiftFund.

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The original round of funding, which came from county coffers, has already been awarded through 261 loans and 52 grants. LiftFund used almost $165,000 in additional funding sources to help fund approved loans that were already too far along in the process to cancel.

The grant money went quickly, said LiftFund CEO and President Janie Barrera.

“Within three days, we were oversubscribed,” Barrera said. “The $250,000 became closer to almost $1 million in requests.”

There’s now a much larger slice of funding pie available and more could be coming.

The county had also planned to commit another $5 million in CARES Act money for loans, but officials decided they might not be able to use the federal funds in that capacity. While grant money would be distributed out to the community, the county would still have accountability over the loans.

“If you think about a loan, eventually it’s going to get paid back. And these dollars were really intended to go and help the businesses in need today,” said David Marquez, executive director of the Bexar County Economic Development Department.

The $5 million might instead end up funneled into grant programs as well, whether through LiftFund or other organizations. Rodriguez requested Marquez bring back a recommendation to the commissioners court on how to use the money.

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Commissioners also requested that the new round of funding be more equitable across the county. Figures provided by LiftFund showed 85 loans awarded to Precinct 3 businesses compared to the 33 loans in Precinct 1 in the first round of loans and grants.

“We need to have balance in the precinct, because every precinct is paying into it but not getting equal numbers,” said Commissioner Tommy Calvert, whose Precinct 4 received 63 loans.

FIRST ROUND OF LOANS (provided by LiftFund)

  • Precinct 1 33 loans (13%); $650,506
  • Precinct 2 80 loans (31%); $1,526,200
  • Precinct 3 85 loans (32%); $1,773,100
  • Precinct 4 63 loans (24%); $1,215,000
  • TOTAL: 261 loans; $5,164,806

About half of the loan recipients were small businesses in the retail, service, and food and accommodation services, according to LiftFund. Barrera did not have a breakdown available for the 52 grants that were awarded.

Barrera expects the new round of grants will not open up until June, saying the county will need to decide on the parameters for the grants. Additionally, businesses will have more time to prepare.

“It’s not going to be a first come, first served. It will be based on whatever the county decides in terms of how they would like to distribute those funds,” Barrera said.

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