BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Financial help is on the way for Brownsville businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus.

Through its StartUp Texas program, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) and the City of Brownsville’s Planning and Redevelopment Department has partnered to launch the Brownsville (Re)Open for Business Forgivable Loan Program. 

Cori Peña, BCIC’s director of community development, said the zero percent forgivable loan program is designed to provide financial relief needed to strengthen local small business enterprises that are enduring hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peña noted that on August 4, the Brownsville City Commission approved $500,000 through the Community Development Block Grant program to be included with $450,000 of funding from the BCIC to provide small businesses in Brownsville forgivable micro loans up to $10,000.

“Our small businesses in Brownsville are one of the things that makes our City so unique, and we know they have been hit hard during this unprecedented time,” Peña said. “These forgivable loans are a crucial step towards helping our small businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis.”

BCIC’s response to COVID-19 and its efforts to help small businesses impacted by the virus were discussed in a recent Zoom conversation with BCIC leaders Josh Mejia and Nathan Burkhart. It was pointed out in the conversation that BCIC’s financial help for small businesses was all the more relevant because Cameron County has been unable to provide such assistance because it was allocated a small amount of funding under the CARES Act.

Here is the Zoom:

Regarding the new Brownsville (Re)Open for Business Forgivable Loan Program, Peña said businesses may be eligible if they have an established physical address in the city of Brownsville, are current with city and county property taxes, and can provide evidence of a 25 percent or more revenue loss since the March 2020. 

Mejia, BCIC’s executive director, said the loan program is targeting businesses and non-profits with 15 employees or less and micro-enterprises that have fewer than five employees with an owner who is earning low to moderate income and who is seeing a reduction in revenue as a result of ongoing social distancing.

“Since we started our StartUp Texas COVID-19 Relief Grants, we have seen businesses fall through the cracks within the federal and state programs currently available,” Mejia said. “It’s been very difficult and frustrating for a lot of our small businesses to access capital. Our new program has been carefully crafted using an equity lens so that the bulk of the resources will go to businesses in our community that need help the most.”

Brownsville City Manager Noel Bernal said the Brownsville (Re)Open for Business Forgivable Loan Program will provide up to $5,000.00 for micro businesses and up to $10,000 for small businesses to assist in payroll, inventory and working capital. Bernal said it is also intended to support businesses that want to open new lines of business in response to the crisis, such as manufacturing medical supplies needed to respond to the disease or provide cleaning or in-home health services.

“We are proud to join our resources and expertise with the BCIC to help our most vulnerable businesses navigate these trying times,” Bernal said. “Our small business community is resilient and innovative, and supporting them will be necessary for the recovery ahead.”

Since March, the City of Brownsville and BCIC have been providing business education programming, mentoring, peer support, COVID-19 grants and more for the community. In that time, the BCIC has assisted in preserving 1,518 at-risk employees and obtaining over $9.6 million in relief funds invested in the community.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Cori Peña, director of community development for Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation.

Editor’s Note: For more information regarding the Brownsville (Re)Open for Business Forgivable Loan Program, please contact Cori Peña at (956)545-0438 or by email at [email protected]

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