Frequently Asked Questions

City of Houston Small Business Economic Relief Program (SBERP)

Q: What is the Small Business Economic Relief Program (SBERP)?

A: The Small Business Economic Relief Program (SBERP) provides grants for small businesses in Houston that are in most financial need and exhibit a reasonable likelihood of surviving the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local chambers of commerce are also eligible to apply for the SBERP.

Q: When can small businesses apply for the grant?

A:  Businesses can apply for the grant during the period of August 19 – September 4, 2020.  Grant funds will not be awarded on a first come-first served basis.

Q: How will the program be funded?

A: The program will be funded by utilizing $15 million of the City’s allocated CARES Act 2020 funds.

Q: How much can a business or chamber receive through this program?

A: The maximum amount a business or chamber can receive is $50,000.

Q: How can a business or chamber use the grant money?

A: The funds can be used for operating expenses such as payroll, accounts payable, rent, mortgage, personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, and for marketing strategies (including creating an online presence and other sales alternatives).  

Q: How are grant funds awarded?

A: The funds will be awarded in two phases. The first half of the funds will be awarded after a business is selected to receive the grant. The second half of the funds will be awarded after the business completes the Recovery and Resiliency (technical assistance) component of the program.

Q: What is the SBERP Recovery and Resiliency component?

A: As part of SBERP, businesses will receive advisory and capacity-building services that will help with their economic recovery and build their resiliency. These services will include assistance in areas including, but not limited to, strategic planning, finance, marketing, and/or human resource management.

Q: What is resiliency as it relates to this grant?

A: Businesses that demonstrate a strong chance of remaining open post-COVID-19 with a documented plan for recovery and resilience.

Q: Who will administer the program?

A: Houston Business Development, Inc. (HBDi) will process applications, disburse funds, and provide the Recovery and Resiliency component of the program.

Q: What is HBDi?

A: Houston Business Development, Inc. (HBDi) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation established in 1986 by the City of Houston. The corporation’s mission is to stimulate economic growth, support the expansion of small businesses, combat community deterioration and foster employment opportunities for low-moderate income citizens in the Houston metropolitan area and surrounding counties. HBDi is intimately familiar with the Houston business and socioeconomic landscape. Most recently, HBDi was selected to administer Harris County’s Economic Recovery Fund.

Q: What are the eligibility Requirements?

A: To qualify for the SBERP, business owners must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a business whose principal place of business is located within city limits of the City of Houston;
  • Must have been in business for at least one (1) year prior to March 1, 2020;
  • Must provide evidence of how business revenue has significantly decreased because of government restrictions or other challenges due to COVID-19;
  • Must have generated $2 million or less in gross annual revenue pre-COVID-19;
  • Must be in good standing regarding City requirements (property taxes, personal property, grounds for debarment, etc);
  • Must commit to completing the Recovery and Resiliency (technical assistance) component of the Program as provided via HBDi; and
  • These eligibility standards may be modified for applicants who are chambers of commerce with approval of the OBO Director.

Q: What documentation will be required?

A:  Applicants must provide the following categories of documentation:

  • Business tax return for 2019 and/or Profit and Loss Statement for 2019
    • If tax return or Profit and Loss Statement is unavailable, additional documentation may be considered, provided that applicant provides a certification that documentation is true, complete and accurate.
  • Profit and Loss Statement of Income and Expenses for Second Quarter 2020 (April through June)
  • Reopening/Recovery Proposal
  • Any other documentation requested

Q: How will businesses be selected to receive the grant?

A: In addition to meeting core eligibility requirements, the City and HBDi will utilize a scoring matrix that will prioritize businesses based on categories which include the following factors:

  • Where the business is located to ensure historically disenfranchised communities also have access to funding;
  • Whether the business has demonstrated challenges with obtaining business financing through traditional financial sources
    • Businesses that have received no other COVID-related relief funds will receive a higher score than those that have received insufficient funding from other sources;
  • Whether the business employs low- to moderate- income Houstonians;
  • Whether the business has 10 or more employees to support job retention and bolster Houston’s local economy;
  • Whether the business has been in operation for 5 or more years; and
  • Whether a business’ recovery and resiliency plan shows that the business has a strong chance of surviving during and post-COVID-19.

Businesses that meet several of these factors, as well as establish that they have experienced a significant decline in revenues due to COVID-19, will be prioritized for grants.

Q: What happens after an application is turned in?

A: Applications will be processed over a 2-month period, with projected final disbursements of grant funds by October 30, 2020. Eligible businesses will be able to take advantage of the Recovery and Resiliency component of the program provided through HBDi during this time period.

Q: Are there any businesses not eligible to apply for this grant?

A: Ineligible businesses include, but are not limited to:

  • A business that is engaged in illegal activities; speculation; multi-level pyramid sales; gambling; investment or lending; and non-profit business, unless expressly included.
  • A business that is required to have, but failed to obtain, a permit or license according to state or local permitting statutes or ordinances.
  • A business that has been notified by the City of a breach of its contract with the City or has been terminated by the City from a City contract within the past 2 years.
  • A business that has been found guilty by a court, pled guilty or paid a fine for violating a COVID-19 related order, whether an order from the City, County, or Governor.
  • A business that has been closed or ordered to close by a government official due to a violation related to a COVID-19 order, including shuttering ordered by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, City, County or other state official.
  • Private clubs and businesses which require a person to be a member, pay a membership fee to enter or join, or limit the number of memberships for reasons other than capacity.
  • Businesses where persons under 18 are prohibited from entering during all hours of the business’ operation.
  • Businesses that owe funds to the City by way of damage claims, settlement agreements, contracts, judgment, taxes, or other extraordinary circumstances.