While Congress has been unable to pass another aid package for businesses and individuals facing mounting losses due to COVID-19 and mandated closures, there is still some help available.
On Thursday, the Better Business Bureau of El Paso held a brief livestream to highlight the grants and other support available to El Paso businesses.
The BBB has also set up a website, EPBusinessStrong.org, with information and links to various community and nonprofit efforts to support El Paso’s small businesses.
“These programs were carefully designed so that not only can businesses keep running but that all of us can keep shopping and stay safe,” said Marybeth Stevens, president of the BBB of El Paso, during the live-streamed event.
Miranda Diaz, business services coordinator for the city of El Paso, also participated, providing an update on what resources are available to businesses right now.
She said the city was awarded federal dollars from the CARES Act that are now being administered locally through three partners: PeopleFund, Project Vida and LiftFund.
“We want to try to help out the businesses in the city of El Paso as much as possible,” Diaz said.
The PeopleFund program is for independent contractors or sole proprietors and offers grants of up to $5,000, Diaz said. For more information, call 469-676-8251.
Project Vida grants are for up to $5,000 for microenterprises, defined as those with one to four employees. For more information, call 915-533-7057.
And LiftFund’s grants are from $5,000 to $25,000 for small businesses with five to 20 employees. For more information, call 1-800-494-4973.
For all three grants, businesses must demonstrate at least a 15% loss due to COVID-19 since March 2020, and their total gross revenue cannot exceed $2 million. The deadline to apply is Oct. 16.
Diaz said the grants do not have to be paid back and will be awarded on a lottery basis.
Project Vida also has grants available for up to $49,000 under its Build Safe program. The grants can be used to pay for business modifications to increase public health safety related to COVID-19.
The El Paso Business Strong website also has other resources available for businesses during the pandemic. Programs include the BBB’s e-commerce and technical assistance program for food-based and retail businesses to expand their online retail capabilities, at no cost to the business.
There’s also $10 million available through the EP Rent Help program, which is administered by the Paso del Norte Community Foundation. The program is for landlords seeking to help their residential tenants who are behind on rent and facing eviction due to COVID-19. If eligible, landlords may apply for up to three months of past-due rent per eligible tenant up to $1,000 per month. For more information, go online to EPRentHelp.org.
The El Paso Chamber is also offering assistance for businesses facing hardship related to the coronavirus.
The chamber’s Business Solutions Center will help 40 businesses with consulting and assistance. The chamber will also offer $4,000 grants for things like consulting and software improvement.
Resources from the El Paso Chamber related to COVID-19 are also available for non- members.
There are also marketing initiatives that encourage El Pasoans to support local businesses impacted by COVID-19.
The BBB’s recently-launched Buy El Paso campaign offers tips on how to support El Paso businesses and highlights local places and owners. The campaign suggests shoppers think of their favorite El Paso-owned spots to support when going out to shop for everything from clothing to takeout.
Businesses can also request Buy El Paso stickers and other merchandise to help promote their products and services. For more information, go online to BuyEP.org. The website also has an extensive directory of local El Paso businesses.
For more information on available programs from the BBB and its community and nonprofit partners and programs, go online to EPBusinessStrong.org.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422.