Federal and local programs offer assistance to small businesses

A new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce finds 43% of small businesses fear the coronavirus shutdown will force them to close permanently if they don't get some relief soon.          

The government's $2 trillion dollar rescue package includes $350 million dollars for small business protection. It went online with banks doing the paperwork for the Small Business Administration, and tens of thousands got in line for help.

Jess Hughes was one of those people. Just days ago, the owner of three Citizen Pilates studios was concerned about closed doors and looming rent deadlines. As soon as the government's Paycheck Protection Program' went online she filled out the paperwork and spent an hour on the phone with her bank to finalize the application.

"I followed the rules, made sure I had my documents in order, made sure I had all of my supporting documents," says Hughes, "I, personally, have not had a bad experience with this, but I've also been patient and trusting the process."

Not every experience has gone as smoothly. Published reports suggest banks have been unwilling to help anyone who is not, already, an established customer. They are concerned they'd be left holding a financial loss if the government doesn't pay up.

Meantime, Harris County Precinct 2 commissioner Adrian Garcia wants local government to help businesses, as well. "They're telling me they're at risk of closing their doors, permanently," says Garcia.

He has proposed a $10 Million dollar program, from the county's public contingency fund, to offer forgivable loans up to $25 thousand dollars to eligible businesses. County commissioners approved the measure, this week.        

"The idea is simply to provide a 'shot in the arm' to area businesses that are struggling," says Garcia, "and help them keep their employees on staff and their doors open."

All of them are ideas that are essential to, hopefully, keeping the doors open for businesses like Jess Hughes and her employees.

"This will allow me to pay them a hundred percent of their usual salary for the next two and a half months," says Hughes, "When we come through, my business can open full steam ahead."

Both programs are first-come, first-served, so there's no time to waste.

Commissioner Garcia expects the county program would be ready to go within 24 hours of its approval. Both loans will require extensive paperwork, so businesses will need all that order or risk losing their place in line.