COVID-19 shutdown threatens businesses in neighborhoods with limited choices

A federal program, designed to offer financial assistance to struggling small businesses, is quickly running out of money and Washington politics is slowing efforts to find more cash. That could be discouraging news in neighborhoods where there were, already, limited choices.

Like most neighborhoods, the virus-shutdown has left Houston's Southeast and East sides very slow as people, mostly, stay in and businesses are closed.

On Almeda Road, the Melodrama Boutique is locked-up tight. Jackie Adams opened the business 17 years ago, and she is not letting the closed-door keep her down. On the boutique's Facebook page, there is a steady stream of ads for fashion that is ready to go and clients are still making some purchases and getting the merchandise delivered, by mail.

"Anxiety is not going to help, especially during the times that I still want my business to be open," says Adams, "So I have to use the anxiety and turn that into a work-level where I really focus on my business and what can I do from my home."

Unfortunately, that strategy won't work for everyone. Many small businesses are struggling and may continue to struggle. When Harris County commissioners passed a $10 million dollar small-business loan program, the response was overwhelming. In just over 24-hours, there were more than 7100 applications requesting for more than $150 million dollars.

"This proves that their back is a little broken, at the moment," says Precinct 2 Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who proposed the loan effort.

While Garcia looks for other ways to offer assistance, he thinks it's inevitable some businesses will never reopen. It will be bad news for the entrepreneurs, the people they employ, and customers who may depend on them being open. "It hurts my heart to think businesses will close who have been functioning so long, with no problems," says Garcia, "Even with hurricanes, they have been resilient but this pandemic may have proven too much for them."