On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the HELP for Small Business committee met one final time as they reviewed the remaining loan applications submitted.
The committee approved three qualifying businesses, and each received the maximum amount of $10,000. In total, the Harlingen EDC lent $489,000 to 52 Harlingen businesses, many of which used the money to pay fees, rent, payroll, taxes, supplies, and other business-related expenses.
In mid-March orders from the state and county mandated public establishments to close, leaving business owners with no option and a lot of uncertainty.
Harlingen EDC created a survey in order to better understand the economic impact of COVID-19 on our community. The data was plain and simple, our business community, specifically our small businesses, were hurting.
“The survey helped us to determine the impact that this pandemic and the government shutdown was having on our economy,” Raudel Garza, Harlingen CEO, said.
The data was reviewed and presented to the Harlingen EDC Board of Directors and Harlingen City Commission who set aside $1,000,000 to establish the HELP for Small Business fund.
The small business loan program then launched in May of 2020 in an effort to help minimize the widespread economic impact. The HEDC provided the emergency loans at zero (0%) interest to qualified businesses with repayment of the loans to begin a year after the funds were disbursed.
Federal resources like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were available but sometimes business owners did not meet the qualifications. Without anywhere to turn and facing the loss of their business, HELP for Small Business came just in time for Harlingen businesses.
“Our purpose is to get J&V’s back on its feet by getting caught up on our bills, start re-ordering merchandise from our companies, (and) getting our employees back to work their regular hours.” Viola Garza, J&V’s Toys, Games, and More owner said.
“We applied to so many different programs and didn’t hear from anyone, yet it was our beloved Harlingen that answered our prayers.”
The business loan program drew positive attention locally, statewide, and nationally and it also caught the attention of neighboring organizations that consequently created similar programs.
The loan program was also recently honored by the Texas Economic Development Council at their virtual annual conference. The Harlingen EDC received the Community Economic Development Award for Transferability, because of the ease for other communities to model their programs after HELP.
“This program was created in order to help our small business community and we are proud that it inspired other communities to create similar programs,” Garza said.
“This program is also helping us engage with the small businesses here. Many of them are better understanding the resources available to them through the HEDC and we will continue to support them.”
While the loan program ended, the HEDC is committed to helping and monitoring the loan recipients for the next few years.
“HELP for Small Business was created with the intention to help and support our Harlingen businesses,” Harlingen EDC President, Eric Ziehe, said.
“We really want to see them succeed – we want to see all businesses in Harlingen succeed.”