HEDC green-lights $1,500 grants for business enhancements

HARLINGEN — The city’s economic board on Tuesday signed off on designating $300,000 in funds for qualifying small businesses for their investment in renovations on their properties.

The Harlingen Helps initiative was first discussed in December as a way to help defray investment including building renovations or site improvements.

The initial grants were capped at $1,000, but in the measure approved by the Harlingen Economic Development Corp. board, grants can now reach $1,500.

“We also changed some of the wording to make it easier to identify what are the eligible expenses that can be done … and we changed the dates,” Beverly Loftus, the HEDC’s commercial development manager, told the board.

“Previously the renovations could take place from June 24 through a specified time period,” she added. “We now changed it to June 1 of 2019 to May 31 of 2020, so the eligible renovations can take place during that time, not before or after.”

The revised proposal also acknowledges that owners of multiple eligible properties can apply for the grants, but their total payout will be capped at $3,000 no matter how many properties they own.

“We had set aside $300,000 so if we’re giving them up to $1,500, and let’s assume that everybody does $1,500, we’re talking about 200 businesses that we can help out,” said Raudel Garza, chief executive officer of the HEDC. “It might be more if there are people who don’t use up the $1,500.”

The initiative now goes to the City Commission. If approved, application forms will be available on the HEDC website.

Qualifying businesses must meet the criteria set out by the U.S. Small Business Administration to qualify.

Called “size standards,” the rules can be found in Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 121. Small business is defined using size guidelines for different categories of business like agricultural production, communications, manufacturing, retail, service, transportation and warehousing and wholesale.

Size is generally determined by the amount of average annual receipts or by the number of employees.

Among the prohibited businesses are adult businesses, businesses which promote gambling, including sweepstakes, cyber internet cafes, new construction projects or businesses operating from residential properties.