Palmview grant application raises eligibility questions

Hidalgo County officials are having to grapple with an unexpected question when it comes to small business grants — whether someone can apply for expenses for a business they no longer own.

That’s the situation that arose from Palmview’s grant program launched with money received through the coronavirus relief bill passed by the U.S. Congress.

One of the applications, submitted by Alexandra Flores, the former owner of A&M Children’s Learning Academy and a current candidate for city council, is currently being reviewed by law enforcement, according to Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez confirmed that documents related to the grant application submitted by Flores were turned over to his office earlier this month. He added that the same documents were turned over to the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.

Flores explained that even though she had sold her business by the time she applied for the grant in late July, she didn’t see anything in the application that indicated she had to currently own or run the business.

“I was still responsible for paying my light and water,” Flores said. “I still had my van at the moment so I had to pay my monthly van payments on top of the last month of rent for June.”

All those bills added up to a little over $3,000, Flores said, and payroll taxes incurred from October to December 2019 were about $1,500.

“This money is being owed all while not profiting from my business so I figured I can still apply for this loan, help pay off some of my business bills, the bills that I incurred with the daycare,” she said.

“Nowhere did it indicate if I had to be currently owning or running or operating the business or at least not to my knowledge,” she said. “But that’s what the funding was going to be used for.”

The grant application she submitted on July 31 states the purpose of the funds would be to pay bills, according to a copy of the application obtained by The Monitor.

As part of the application, Flores wrote that the business was negatively affected by the pandemic because students were not showing up since many parents were working from home and not in need of a daycare center.

Under eligibility, the application does ask whether the person applying is still the current owner or is still running the business. However, the application does indicate that the person initialing and signing it should be “the authorized representative,” the definition of which is unclear.

Additionally, where her legal name is requested in print, she is identified as the owner.

Flores said she had applied for a grant when she still owned the business in June but she was rejected, leading her to suspect that she may have been set up by political opponents since her application was only approved when she was no longer the owner. She conceded, though, that she had no proof of this.

Flores also clarified that she has not cashed the check she received from the city and, instead, intends to return it after the election.

“My employees that worked with me, they were good, hard-working girls and we were all very sad that I discontinued the business but in all reality, I had no choice. I wasn’t profiting anymore after the pandemic hit,” Flores said. “But they know the real story and that, to me, is what matters.”

Rodriguez, the district attorney, said that at this point, his office is waiting to see if anything comes out of the sheriff’s office with regard to this case before determining if any action needs to be taken.

Sheriff’ J.E. “Eddie” Guerra could not be reached for comment.

bereniceg@themonitor.com