How the city is helping small businesses suffering from construction

Title: City of San Antonio Awards Construction Mitigation Grants to eligible Local Businesses

In the brick-walled conference room of a nonprofit’s headquarters adorned with paintings of Frida Kahlo, a city staffer concluded the submission of Lucinda Simmons’ application for a construction mitigation grant. Simmons, the owner of Don Roman, a shop selling Mexican wares, sought assistance from Maestro Entrepreneur Center for guidance on filling out the grant application. This was the third round of city funding for local businesses impacted by ongoing construction, amounting to $1.45 million with grants ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 available to eligible businesses in eight target construction zones. The application window closed on July 15, and businesses must be able to show a decrease in income between 2022 and 2023 to qualify.

Notably, not every applicant is guaranteed funding due to limited funds available, making competition for these grants intense. Linda Torres, the owner of Unique Cuts hair salon, was informed on the same day that she would not meet the criteria since she had not demonstrated enough financial loss. Despite previous aid from the city, including signage announcing businesses affected by the construction were still operational, Torres voiced interest in learning more about available support services, such as programs provided by Maestro Entrepreneur Center, of which she was unaware before her visit.

Unlike Torres, Mario Cardenas learned that Funtown, the sports and games complex he had recently purchased and intended to renovate, was not qualified since it had not yet been opened to the public. Cardenas took advantage of the visit to explore another program, the city’s digital presence initiative, aimed at expanding businesses’ online presence and customer reach, again of which he was previously uninformed.

The Maestro Entrepreneurship Center proactively took initiatives to educate affected businesses, as Executive Director, Geremy Landín, and their sole other staff member, Ruby Chapa, undertook block walks along three eligible construction zones to discuss potential assistance with business owners struggling in these zones. The process of capturing small business owners’ attention can be challenging, as owners tend to focus on keeping their businesses viable during challenging times.

The city continues its outreach efforts across various platforms, including block walking through the affected zones, distributing flyers, and conducting virtual info sessions. The city aims to disseminate information concerning grant applications and additional support for affected businesses during these challenging years impacted by both the COVID-19 pandemic and construction projects. Additionally, City Council has committed to developing a permanent construction mitigation fund during budget deliberations.

Though direct federal relief funding has wound down, San Antonio has already expended significant resources in supporting struggling businesses in 2020 (allocating $29.5 million to “micro” businesses with under 20 employees), 2021 (dispensing $13 million in hospitality grants), 2022 (allocating $15 million in COVID-19 impact grants), as well as offering a previous round of construction mitigation grants worth $2.45 million, among other initiatives. San Antonio City Council will approve the budget for fiscal year 2025 in September.

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