HEDC awards zero-interest loans to 15 businesses

HARLINGEN — A second round of zero-interest loans to local small businesses has been made to 15 city business owners hurt by the coronavirus lockdowns and shelter-at-home orders.

The Harlingen Economic Loan Program (HELP) for small business loans ranged from $3,000 to the maximum $10,000. The loans are being made with funds from the Harlingen Economic Development Corp.

“The HEDC and the city started this program to reach those in need, and we are doing that,” said Raudel Garza, CEO of the economic development agency. “This program is also helping us connect better with the small businesses here. Many of them are understanding the resources available to them through the HEDC.”

“The reaction to the program has been very positive, and there have been many tears of joy, virtual hugs, and high-fives,” Garza added.

The zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 each will be awarded in five stages with a total of up to $1 million to be distributed.

HEDC’s Garza says his agency hopes to aid at least 100 small-business owners.

HELP for small business was launched May 1. Twenty-four small businesses have been approved thus far for loans and the total loan amount is $216,500.

Other businesses which can still apply for the loans through the HEDC’s website, https://harlingenedc.com

The list of applicants in the second round of loans ranged from restaurants, beauty and barber establishments, boutiques, body shops and other specialty local shops, the HEDC said.

Many of the nine local business owners who received loans in the first round of the HELPS program described the hardships caused by the impact of the coronavirus shutdown and the shelter-at-home requirements.

Some wrote they had their credit card payments, mortgage and insurance deferred for 90 days to stay afloat. Others wrote about not receiving any funding from the Small Business Administration, and were left waiting for some sort of assistance.

Garza has said he hopes the HELP program will provide a safety net for local business owners who are unable to qualify for any federal economic disaster funding.