SAN ANTONIO – EDITORS NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the businesses and nonprofits had been “awarded” the grants, though many of those tapped for the grants still needed to have their applications validated. This has been fixed in the script below.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kristina Uriegas-Reyes shut down her vintage clothing shop, Hello Tallulah, for four months due to both restrictions and her own sense of caution.
“That was incredibly tough because I built the business around brick and mortar,” Uriegas-Reyes said.
She was able to get by with some help from different assistance programs, and now, an $8,000 grant through the City of San Antonio for micro-businesses will help her stock up on new inventory.
“That’s a big thing for trying to get new people into the store,"Uriegas-Reyes said. “So people would have come in, and they would have been like, ‘Oh, this is the stuff she had six months ago.’ And it would have made my business stagnant."
That grant puts her in the company of the lucky 709 businesses and 45 nonprofits that have been tapped for a COVID-19 recovery grant by the city so far. A far greater number will not be getting any money as the demand far outpaces what the city has put aside.
The $24.8 million worth of grants were passed as part of the city’s broader $190.9 million “Recovery and Resiliency Plan.” The grants, which were paid with federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, are aimed at businesses with 20 or fewer employees that can show losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Businesses that applied were able to receive grants of up to $75,000, depending on their number of employees. A portion of the grant money is reserved for nonprofits.
All but a few hundred thousand dollars ear-marked for nonprofits is spoken for already. All the money is expected to be distributed by Sep. 30, but it won’t be nearly enough to satisfy all those who applied.
LiftFund, which is administering the grants on behalf of the city, says it originally received 3,137 applications, requesting a total of $118 million.
Even after duplicate applications and those that didn’t meet basic eligibility requirements were removed the list, there were still more than 2,750 applications.
“Over $100 million worth of applications, and we we only funded a quarter of that,” said District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry.
Perry had been the lone “no” vote against the Recovery and Resiliency Plan when the city council passed it in June. He had been concerned about what he felt was too little money for small businesses.
Now, he says, the city is waiting to see if Congress will send more money to the cities.
“And until we get that word, we have to live on what we have right now,” Perry said.
The director of the city’s Economic Development Department, Alex Lopez, said the city tried to be intentional in using the funds that it had.
“So businesses that are located in the areas where there’s the highest levels of poverty and the highest concentrations of people of color -- those census tracts got the most points,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the city is also working with other organizations to begin reaching out to the hundreds of businesses who didn’t receive grants.
“They’re actually going to be doing door-to-door work to try to reach out to these businesses to help understand ‘what is your current situation and what is your plan and how do we help you with that?’” Lopez said.