EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso County officials said they are working on establishing an economic relief fund for small businesses in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Vince Perez, County Commissioner of Precinct 3, proposed the plan on Monday during Commissioner’s Court, which was given the green light to proceed.
“Clearly this is one of the worst economic disasters our community has ever seen,” Perez said.
Perez said the county could allocate funds from the $35 million in reserve.
“My comment in Commissioners’ Court was, if we’re not going to use this emergency fund, when would we ever use it?” Perez said.
He said that could come in forms of low-interest loans for payroll or rental assistance, or even in grants.
“If we can release $10 million or $15 million that can help our community get through the next couple months until 2021 and see what the federal government does, another round of stimulus checks that’s been discussed,” Perez said.
In addition to economic recovery, Perez said it could encourage businesses to step in voluntarily after courts challenged County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s shutdown of non-essential businesses.
“If things get worse, this could be a tool or incentive for businesses to shutdown for a short period of time,” Perez said.
Samaniego said he was working on a new order.
The owner of one Northeast El Paso restaurant, Chase the Taste, said they were closed for dine-in during Samaniego’s shutdown, despite the confusion on its legality from other businesses. However, the owner, Randy Garcia, said he doesn’t think they can make it through another shutdown without any assistance.
“We did some small business loans in April but it wasn’t a large amount it is something to help you for a month or two but back in July we already spent all that money,” Garcia said.
Garcia said since the pandemic began, dine-in has been most affected but he said because of so many supporters, curbside orders have been consistent enough to keep things afloat and well.
“I’d say there’s probably a 20% decrease in sales based on last years numbers,” Garcia said.
Chase the Taste voluntarily closed dine-in in July. Garcia said with things worse now, they could do it again with some assistance.
“I’ve talked to my employees and we talked about it and if my rent was paid and their bills were paid and my bills were paid then it is definitely something we would do, of course,” Garcia said.
Perez said his staff will now work to put together a plan and the proposal would need to return to Commissioner’s Court for final approval to release the funds. He said he hopes it can be done in the next two to three weeks.
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