San Benito to help shops recover

SAN BENITO — The city’s Economic Development Corporation is pumping $200,000 into programs offering loans and rental assistance to help businesses recover from the economic shutdown aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The EDC is setting aside $100,000 to fund zero-interest loans to qualifying businesses.

As part of another program, $100,000 will fund lease assistance packages to help businesses pay their rent.

Across town, about 20 percent of the city’s 288 businesses closed during the shutdown, Rebeca Castillo, the EDC’s executive director, said Thursday.

“There’s definitely a negative impact,” she said. “We’re looking to encourage businesses to continue thriving during this time. We’re trying to inject dollars into the community to support those businesses.”

On Tuesday, city commissioners ratified the programs which the EDC board approved on May 27.

As part of the loan program, the EDC will begin accepting applications in mid August after a 60-day public comment period.

“As the business community is reopening, the EDC wants to ensure that a program is in place that will supplement the resources that the business owner has available,” Castillo stated in a press release.

Zero-interest loans

The COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Loan Program will offer zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 to qualifying businesses, deferring payment for 12 months while allowing three years to pay back the money.

“This program’s purpose is to provide working capital for personnel costs, rent, utilities for existing small businesses within the city limits,” the press release stated.

The loans will be available to businesses the Small Business Administration has denied for loans stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rental assistance program

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Emergency Rent Subsidy Program, which will take applications from June 15 to Sept. 30, will offer up to $5,000 for up to six months’ rent reimbursed at 100 percent, with the remaining three months reimbursed at 50 percent.

“During this time of uncertainty, we want to provide our business community with this assistance that will allow them to keep their businesses open in our community,” EDC President Julian Rios stated.

The program is available to businesses opening from Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020 with minimum one-year lease agreements in the downtown area and along Oscar Williams Road and Business 77.

Under the program, businesses which have previously received EDC rental assistance could also qualify for funding.

The program is available to businesses that have received rent subsidies from February 2018 to the present.

As part of the program, the EDC will offer qualifying businesses which have received rental assistance up to 50 percent rent reimbursement for six months, with a $5,000 cap.

“We try to focus more on those businesses that return sales tax dollars and submit sales tax reports and benefit the tax base of the city of San Benito,” Castillo told commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.

The program “strategically ensures job creation and increases of traffic in major street corridors,” she said.