Texas Coronavirus Relief Bill Rental Assistance Program Opened February 15
The State of Texas launched a new relief program to help Texans who have been struggling to pay rent and utility bills, offering more than $1 billion allocated to Texas through the latest COVID-19 stimulus bill. The application portal opened on February 15 on TexasRentRelief.com. This program is not first-come, first-served. Applications submitted by February 28 will be reviewed by the State. To qualify, households must be at or below 80% of the area median income and prove their inability to pay rent is directly related to the pandemic, per federal guidelines. Priority will be given to applicants in lower-income brackets or who have one or more people unemployed in their household at the time of application and for 90 days prior to the application date. Applicants can submit their application online or by calling 833-989-7386.
Disaster Loan Assistance Available for Texas Businesses and Residents Affected by Severe Winter Storms
Low-interest federal disaster loans are now available to Texas businesses and residents as a result of President Biden’s major disaster declaration. The declaration covers 77 Texas counties as a result of the severe winter storms that began on February 11, 2021. Tomorrow, February 23, the Small Business Administration will open a Virtual Business Recovery Center to provide personalized assistance to business owners. Contact the center at (800) 659-2955 or FOCWAssistance@sba.gov. In addition, the Small Business Administration will open a Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center to help homeowners and renters. Customer Service Representatives will be available to business owners and individuals understand the disaster loan application process and complete their electronic loan application. See details, terms, and eligibility. Learn more.
Shuttered Venue Operators Grants from the SBA Opening Soon
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) Grant program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, signed into law on December 27, 2020. The program includes $15 billion for grants to shuttered venues, to be administered by the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. Eligible applicants may qualify for SVO Grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. $2 billion is reserved for eligible applications with up to 50 full-time employees.
For additional details, see the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants FAQ. Learn more.
Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service is accepting Fiscal Year 2021 applications for the Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training grant program. Grants to public bodies and private nonprofit corporations will fund technical assistance and/or training to identify and plan for community facility needs. Once those needs have been identified, the grantee can assist in identifying public and private resources to finance those identified community facility needs. The maximum grant award is $150,000, and no matching funds are required. Applications are due March 22. Learn more.
Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant Program for Resident-Driven Community Development
The Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant Program provides $10,000 in startup funding for resident-driven groups in small cities and towns to engage in public outreach campaigns. Through the Community Heart & Soul Process, residents in a community are convened to envision a future for their communities and plan for action to invest in that vision. To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate strong resident leadership and be in small towns with populations between 2,500 and 30,000. Seed grant funding requires a $10,000 cash match from the participating municipality or a partnering organization. Read the grant guidelines. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and due at the end of each month. Applications will be accepted as funding is available. Learn more.
Applications Open for Rural Business Development Grants Until March 31
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development is accepting applications from towns, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education and other eligible entities to provide technical assistance and training for small rural businesses. Small businesses are defined as businesses with fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenue. Rural Business Development Grant money must be used for projects that benefit rural areas or towns outside the urbanized periphery of any city with a population of 50,000 or more. There is no maximum grant amount; however, smaller requests are given higher priority. There is no cost sharing requirement. Applications are due March 31. Learn more.
Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants from FEMA Due March 12
The Staffing for Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program is one of three grant programs that constitute the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) focus on enhancing the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire and fire-related hazards. The SAFER Program provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to assist in increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry minimum standards. There is no cost share or match requirement. Learn more.
FCC Prepares for Next Round of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program
In March 2020, Congress allocated $200 million to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to establish a program to help health care providers offer telehealth to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, Congress appropriated an additional $249.95 million for a second round of funding for the Telehealth Program under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The Universal Service Administrative Company will administer the remainder of Round 1 and all of Round 2 under FCC oversight. Learn more.
Funding for Historic Preservation in Underrepresented Communities
The National Park Service’s Underrepresented Communities Grant (URC) Program is accepting applications for competitive grants. The URC programs works to diversify nominations submitted to the National Register of Historic Places. Funded projects include surveys and inventories of historic properties associated with communities underrepresented in the National Register, as well as the development of nominations to the National Register for specific sites. Award amounts range from $15,000 to $50,000. Applications are due March 31. Learn more.
Report: 7 Steps to Municipal Resilience & Recovery
The Mayors Innovation Project has released a guide for municipalities recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded in 2005 by former mayors in Wisconsin, the Mayors Innovation Project is a national learning network for mayors to share research and technical assistance. Each of the seven steps detailed in the guide includes specific recommendations with real-world implementation examples. The seven steps are: 1) Make recovery everyone’s business, 2) Advance equity and opportunity for all, 3) Unleash your local economy, 4) Zone for equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, 5) Speed up and broaden delivery of essential service while saving money, 6) Leave no dollar behind, and 7) Build a readiness culture. Read the report.
Texas Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program Accepting Applications From Local Service Providers
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) made $69.6 million available to cities, counties, and local or regional nonprofits to provide mortgage assistance in their jurisdictions or service areas through a competitive application process. Through the Texas Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program local service providers will be awarded funds to assist homeowners at or below 80% of the Area Medium Income who have been economically impacted by COVID-19 with 6 months of mortgage payments. Intent to apply is due March 5. The application deadline is April 12. Read the Notice of Funding Availability.
Citizens Institute on Rural Design Accepting Applications for Design Learning Cohort
The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is accepting applications through March 12 for an opportunity to participate in four local design workshops that address speciﬁc community challenges and an online Design Learning Cohort program for up to 15 communities. All rural communities of 50,000 or less are eligible to apply for the CIRD local Design Workshop and Design Learning Cohort opportunities. Workshops should plan to follow local health safety guidelines and virtual options are available. CIRD encourages applications from nonproﬁts, municipal governments, regional planning organizations, and other community partners. An informational webinar was held on February 9. Applications are due March 12. Learn more.
Updates to Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program
As of January 19, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is open to all participating lenders. Borrowers who did not receive a loan before August 8, 2020 can apply for a First Draw PPP Loan. Eligible small businesses that previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and have used the full amount for authorized uses can apply for a maximum of $2M in a Second Draw PPP Loan. Eligible businesses must have 300 or fewer employees and demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020. The PPP will remain open for First and Second Draw loans until March 31, 2021 or until Congressionally appropriated funding is exhausted. Read more guidance from the Small Business Administration.
Grant Funding for Public Lands Through Restoration & Resilience COVID Recovery Fund
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) allocated $128,000 in grant funding to support public lands that have been impacted by increased use during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Restoration & Resilience COVID Recovery Fund. Local governments, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions can apply for up to $2,500 to help mobilize volunteer networks, pay for maintenance projects or accessibility improvements, or conserve public lands. Applicants must clearly describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public land site. NEEF is accepting applications until June 2021, with application deadlines on April 1 and June 1.
Economic Stimulus Passed in Congress for COVID-19 Relief
At the end of December, Congress passed a $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill allocating approximately $1.4 trillion to fund the government through September 30, 2021 and approximately $900 billion in economic stimulus. Signed into law on December 27, the legislation includes:
$285 billion for additional loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The renewed PPP caps loans at $2 million and makes them available only to borrowers with fewer than 300 employees that experienced at least a 25% drop in sales from a year earlier in at least one quarter. The agreement also sets aside $12 billion specifically for minority-owned businesses.
$7 billion for expanding access to high-speed internet connections, with $300 million set aside for building infrastructure in underserved rural areas. Read more.
$13 billion to help livestock, poultry, dairy, non-specialty and specialty crop producers continue to recover from COVID-19 disruptions. Read more from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
$3 billion to the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) to provide grants and other financial assistance to CDFIs, including CDFI loan funds, as they serve consumers, small businesses, and nonprofits in their communities. Read more from the Council of Development Finance Agencies.
USDA Accepting Applications to Establish Revolving Loans for Rural Economic Development
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is accepting applications to establish revolving loan programs to support rural businesses and community development projects. The revolving loan funds may issue loans for the purchase, construction, or expansion of a rural business; purchase or development of land; purchase of equipment, machinery, or supplies; or for start-up costs and working capital. The loans will be established through USDA's Intermediary Relending Program and are subject to the availability of funds. Application deadlines for the quarterly funding competitions are:
Third Quarter: March 31, 2021
Fourth Quarter: June 30, 2021
Connected Nation Releases Policy Brief on Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction Phase I
On December 7, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that millions of rural Americans will gain access to high-speed internet service through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. In Texas, winning bidders will bring $362,662,934 in support of broadband to 310,962 unserved homes and businesses over the next 10 years. The FCC has released a full list of winning bidders and the number of homes and businesses to be served in Texas, organized by county. Connected Nation has released a Policy Brief to provide stakeholders with further details regarding the RDOF Phase I auction.
Regional Economic Indicators Related to COVID-19 Impacts on the Region
The Socioeconomic Modeling Staff at the Houston-Galveston Area Council prepared an economic indicators report on the impact of COVID-19 in the region. Indicators include unemployment, residential activity, commercial office, retail, and industrial activity, airport activity, tax records, hospital statistics, and mobility statistics.
Small Business Resources
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Opened February 16
The 9th annual FedEx Small Business Grant Contest returned on February 16. Small business can apply to win up to $50,000 to help their businesses recover and grow. Past winners have used funds to develop websites, purchase new equipment, hire employees, and expand into new spaces. Learn more about contest entry and prizes.
Small Business Administration Continues Accepting Applications for EIDL Loans
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications from all qualified small businesses, including agricultural businesses, and private nonprofit organizations. The EIDL program is designed to provide economic relief to businesses experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19.
Small Business Administration Launches COVID-19 Small Business Funding Portal
The Small Business Administration provides a free list of thousands of private and public funding sources at the national, state, regional, and local levels designed to support small businesses in accessing capital to recover from COVID-19. The landing page displays programs that are available nationally; visitors can enter a ZIP code to see location-specific funding options. Explore the portal.
Small Business Financing Opportunities through H-GALDC
Serving as H-GAC’s small business financing arm, the Houston-Galveston Area Local Development Corporation (H-GALDC) is able to help new or established small businesses access capital to purchase and develop real estate. With interest rates at all-time lows, now may be the time to move your business from a lease to a mortgage. H-GALDC also leverages funding from the Small Business Administration and the Economic Development Administration to offer a variety of loan products. Loans can range from $25,000 for working capital to over $5,000,000 for the purchase of land and new construction.
For more information about H-GALDC and its resources visit hgaldc.com or email email@example.com.
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Guide to Building an Online Presence
To weather the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic, small business owners must become adept social media and website users. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension released a “Building Your Online Presence—Immediately” guide with straightforward information on how to expand an online store, run an email or text campaign, and build a social media following.
Small Business Development Centers Offer Variety of Webinars for Small Business Owners
The University of Houston Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Centers offer free access to pre-recorded webinars for small businesses and a selection of upcoming webinars.
Skills Enhancement Initiative from Texas Workforce Commission Offers Free Online Training for Workers
Texas Workforce Commission partnered with Metrix Learning to help recently unemployed Texas residents learn new skills and prepare to get back to work. The Metrix online learning platform provides free online training, with courses offered in English and Spanish. Courses include Microsoft Office; Adobe; Quick Books, Customer Service, Analytical Skills; Data Management/Reporting and more. Learn more about the Skills Enhancement Initiative.
Support for Small and Medium Manufacturers Pivoting Production in Response to COVID-19
The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC) is providing services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers, such as connecting businesses that are pivoting their production in response to the coronavirus to new supply chains, connecting firms with state resources, advising companies on new operational issues, and providing workforce support. TMAC is part of the National Institute of Standard and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). View regional office locations in Texas.
Small Business Development Centers Open for Business Advising Services
Throughout their network, University of Houston Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) are open and available to assist small businesses impacted by COVID-19. SBDCs provide business advising, access to training, tools and resources to help small businesses start, grow, expand and succeed.