More than 600 local small businesses have applied for grants through a program created and funded by the city of Waco and McLennan County, along with funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grants are meant for businesses with 10 or fewer employees. It is specifically targeted toward nonessential businesses and small businesses that fell through the cracks of federal assistance programs, said City Councilman Jim Holmes, who heads a task force that helped create the local program.

“I don’t think we pretend this is the cure-all for businesses, but it will help them get through a few months of rent payment or payroll,” Holmes said. “The outreach we’ve had so far is very grateful.”

The Waco City Council voted last month to use $415,000 of a $803,915 Community Development Block Grant and $415,000 from the city-county economic development incentive fund to pay for the business relief grants. The McLennan County Commissioners Court, which administers the economic development fund with the city, also approved the measure.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, 630 businesses had applied.

Each business can be awarded up to $5,000 to help with its recovery. The average award for the first recipients has been about $2,400, city housing director Galen Price said.

“Businesses may continue to apply for funding at this time,” Price said. “We have not established a date when applications can no longer be submitted.”

The average request for funding has been about $4,300 among businesses recommended for a grant so far.

“There are other programs available out there for these businesses such as PPP (the federal Paycheck Protection Program) and EIDL, (the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan program) but most of these small businesses do not have the necessary documentation to qualify for assistance under these programs,” Price said.

A review committee for the applications met Friday for a first round of evaluations, said Kris Collins, senior vice president at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

“I know that some have come in with a request for the full $5,000, and the staff recommendation to the committee has been lower based off of justifiable expenses,” Collins said.

A wide variety of small businesses have applied, but all of the applications the committee reviewed Friday met the criteria for the grants, she said. The first grant notifications will be sent out next week, and money will be distributed late next week or early the following week.

“It’s been across the board,” Collins said of the applicants. “A lot of them have been sole proprietorships that have been shut down as a result of the order from the city and the state. Personal care services like barbershops and hair salons, some of them have been restaurants that have had significantly reduced businesses. There have been some in transportation services.”

The money is intended to last through the month, and applications are still being accepted.

“With the number of applications that have been received and the level of funding that’s been recommended for each application, I think their projection is that it would last through the month,” Collins said.

Holmes said City Hall has created a help desk to work with applicants as they navigate the necessary paperwork.

“The forms, they may be lengthy to fill out. Please fill them out. They’re worth the time,” Holmes said. “In this grant program, we’re asking for some record keeping.”

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