New Fort Worth Program Offers $10 Million in Grants for Small Businesses

May 26,2020


See full NBCDFW story by Lili Zheng here

A new grant program is available for small businesses in Fort Worth impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Preserve the Fort has been allocated $10 million to distribute in grants to qualifying businesses. Robert Sturns, economic development director for the city of Fort Worth, said the $10 million derived from the $158 million in funding the city received from the CARES Act.

The city is also partnering with the United Way of Tarrant County to help distribute the funds.

“We did this program because obviously we understand that businesses are being very hard hit by the impacts of COVID-19. They’re really struggling accessing resources to keep them afloat,” Sturns said. “I fully expect us to get several thousand applications in for the funding. There’s about 38,000 to 39,000 small businesses in Fort Worth, so even if you just get 10% of those, you’re looking at over 3,000 applications.”

According to Sturns, grant money ranges from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on the size of the business.

“Those with five people or less are eligible for a $5,000 grant,” he said. “If you’re less than 25, $7,500. If you’re 50, $10,000. Less than 250, you’d be eligible for $50,000.”

To qualify, a small business with 250 employees or less must be located within the city of Fort Worth and registered in the state of Texas. Businesses must have been in operation since Sept. 1, 2019. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, sole proprietors, and nonprofits serving the business community are also eligible.

Of the total allocation, $2.5 million will be dedicated to supporting minority-owned businesses while another $2.5 million is reserved for businesses located in the city’s Neighborhood Empowerment Zones and Designated Investment Zones.

According to Sturns, those are areas of Fort Worth that are predominantly low-to-moderate income and have already been identified for revitalization efforts.

The remaining money is for small businesses across the city, he said.

Eileen Slisz, the owner of Mend Hair Studio in Fort Worth, said she planned to apply for a grant. The salon reopened about 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Of the seven years the studio has been open, Slisz said she has never come across a situation as financially disruptive as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The moment our doors closed, I was not trying to show a lot of panic,” she said. “From that moment, I started filing for loans, grants, anything that I qualified for. It was so hard to not get a response back, to actually get that letter and say, 'Bby the way, we’re closed and you didn’t meet the quota.’ It was literally, like ‘What am I going to do?’”

If approved, Slisz said the money could help with things like rent. However, she said her first priority was to make sure she takes care of the stylists and barbers who have had to go.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting to be open until June. I’m thankful that everyone has been extremely busy, and we’re seeing the light at the end of tunnel,” she said. “Everybody has a choice if they want to work or not. To me, I’m thankful that they’re here.”

Applications opened Tuesday and will run through 11:59 p.m. June 8. For more information, click here.