The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on local small businesses; many have struggled without savings, credit, and capital to continue on during the downturn. For some immediate relief, Harris County and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) offered some 444 area small businesses interest-free loans of up to $25,000 earlier this year.
The loans would be forgiven in five years, per the initial Harris County COVID-19 Forgivable Loan Program agreement.
Now, in some feel-good, holiday news, the loans have been converted into grants, thanks to federal CARES Act funding received by the county, according to a statement by Harris County and Houston-Galveston Area Council.
“Many of the owners have already made use of the funds they received. Knowing that they don’t have to pay it back, that it’s all theirs, gives them one less thing to worry about at a time when so many have been impacted,” said Omar Fortune, manager of the Houston-Galveston Area Local Development Corporation (H-GALDC), in a statement. (The organization handled the underwriting process and distribution of loans to small businesses.) “We’re pleased to be able to provide this gift to these small businesses that are so important to our region. That it’s happening during the holiday season makes it even more special.”
Originally launched on April 9, the Harris County COVID-19 Forgivable Loan program distributed $10 million to the 444 small businesses by the summer. On October 6, Harris County approved the loan conversion to grants, according to a press release. Small businesses that had already begun paying back their loans have had their payments reimbursed by the county, according to HGAC.
Local business owners are “ecstatic” upon hearing the news, according to H-GAC. “ This whole experience has been an emotional roller coaster, but I’m extremely positive about the future,” said Museum District-area dentist, Dr. Randy Mitchmore, in a statement. “I’m proud to own a small business, and we have a direct impact on the local community. I’m also grateful for this program and that it was able to help small businesses as intended.”