The city wants to give relief grants to small businesses. Here’s how to apply. – San Antonio Report

The City of San Antonio has opened a new round of grants for small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic and certain ongoing construction projects.

Applications are due Monday, Aug. 22.

The city has set aside $17 million from its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the grants, which will range from $15,000 to $35,000,

An additional $10,000 will be considered for businesses that have been affected by construction. The city has identified 19 ongoing construction projects that could cause business owners to qualify for more money. They include the work being done on North St. Mary’s Street and the Broadway Street corridor. A full list is available on page 43 of the city’s eligibility framework.

LiftFund, a nonprofit advocacy group and microlender for small businesses, is administering the grant program, which the city approved in June.

“We want to remind businesses in need: This program is not first come, first served,” said LiftFund President and CEO Janie Barrera. “Take your time to meet with one of the community partners on the website to make sure you submit a complete application. Plan ahead to submit before Aug. 22.”

Since applications opened Monday, the program has already received nearly 400 applications.

A similar grant program last year gave $6,000 to Andrea Ley’s business, the Olla Express cafe, which at the time was a food truck. She used the grant to open her first brick-and-mortar location in Northwest San Antonio and to boost production of one of her signature products, piloncillo-flavored syrup.

“We’re growing, and it’s been getting better every day,” Ley said.

Her new revenue figures mean that she isn’t eligible for the current grant program.

To be eligible, a small business must show that its gross sales in 2021 and 2020 were lower than 2019. The business must be located in the city. And some industries are excluded, like nonprofits, liquor stores, payday lenders and others. A full list of eligibility requirements can be found on the city’s web page for the grants.

The application process requires some documents such as a utility bill, three years of tax returns, and proof of the number of workers employed earlier this year.

“For most folks, it takes them 30 minutes to an hour to complete the application,” said Liliane Spenle, grant programs and operations manager at LiftFund.

Partner groups are offering to help with the application, free of charge. Those groups are Centro San Antonio, Culturingua, Maestro Entrepreneur Center, Prosper West, SAGE (San Antonio for Growth on the East Side), Southside First Economic Development Council and the LiftFund Women’s Business Center. Contact information for these organizations is available on the city’s website.

The city has previously held information sessions about the application process for the grant. Video recordings are archived online in English and in Spanish.

The city will not require businesses to explain how they’ll use the grant money. But city officials have said federal guidelines stipulate the money can’t be used to pay outstanding bills or debt.

LiftFund also offers a number of other city-sponsored services for small businesses, regardless of whether they qualify for this specific grant program. Those services include the city’s “zero percent interest loan” program and free business counseling.

LiftFund has previously administered more than $42 million in grant funding from the city to small businesses for COVID relief and other programs.

“These past two years have been a challenge for many of our small businesses, which have suffered revenue losses, supply shortages, rising costs and the loss of staff, making it difficult to keep up with monthly bills and expenses,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a prepared statement. “Through ARPA funding, we will support San Antonio’s small businesses as they work to recover from the pandemic and also strengthen our small business community and economy as a whole.”

The grants are the first of two phases in the city’s plan to try to help small businesses. The city has said the second phase will include providing small businesses with access to flexible capital funds, implementing programs to help businesses strengthen their web capabilities, coordinating a “small business safety net”, promoting buying local and showcasing small business corridors.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recently estimated that more than a third of small businesses have closed since the beginning of the pandemic.

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