Fort Worth Provides Resources, Support to Help Local Businesses Affected by COVID-19

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FORT WORTH (WBAP/KLIF)- The City of Fort Worth sent out a survey to get an idea on how local and small businesses are impacted by COVID-19.

“This gives an idea on where they are seeing the most challenges and to help us work through some resources and policy recommendations that we can take on both the local level and what’s coming out on the federal level to help us get through this pandemic,” said Fort Worth Economic Development Director Robert Sturns.

Sturns said the city’s Small Business and Economic Recovery Advisory Committee, which held its first meeting last week, will be using this data to inform their developing initiatives in coming weeks.

The city’s COVID-19 Business Survey was released March 17, and has received more than 1,200 responses so far.

Here are some of the results:

  • 78% of responses came from businesses with fewer than 25 employees.
  • The top three industries to respond to the survey are professional services, hospitality/tourism businesses, and service providers. Other industries include aviation and aerospace, food production, healthcare, manufacturing, arts & entertainment, retail, and more.
  • Most pressing concerns are revenue/cash flow, payroll expenses, and rent/lease/mortgage concerns. Mid-tier concerns include debt relief, workforce challenges, and utilities.
  • 47% of responding businesses indicate a decrease in revenue by at least 60% as of March 1.
  • 57% of responding businesses do not have a remote work/teleworking policy in place, and 58% do not have company leave policies that contain guidance for these types of situations.

A public dashboard with this survey data is available online.

A survey sent out to Chamber of Commerce members reflected similar needs. Additionally, 49% of business owners in the Chamber’s survey indicated that they would not be able to sustain their business longer than a few months if current trends continue.

The city, Chambers of Commerce, and community leaders are are working on different options to provide assistance.

Small businesses can visit the city’s COVID-19 Information for Business page for a list of available resources and support. The page, which is being updated daily, includes information on essential versus non-essential businesses, how to create a business continuity plan, information on the Shared Work Program from Texas Workforce Commission that could be used as an alternative to lay-offs, information on taxes, utilities, and how to file for unemployment; and information on disaster assistance and other financial loans from the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA).

The page is also being updated with a list of different funding initiatives – from local lending partners at the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, to larger regional efforts – that business owners can apply for in order to seek relief. Some of these initiatives include:

  • The Artist Relief Fund is a local collaboration between United Way, Hear Fort Worth, and Film Fort Worth to support musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers. Qualified applicants will be eligible for a one-time grant of $300.
  • The AssistHer Emergency Relief Grant from Texas Woman’s University assists Texas-based, woman-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19. A total of $1,000,000 is available, spread between 100 grant awards.
  • Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits through their Small Business Grants program.
  • The James Beard Foundation is providing microgrants to independent food and beverage businesses in need.
  • JPMorgan pledged a $50 million global philanthropic commitment, including $2 million to existing nonprofit partners and $8 million to assist small businesses.
  • Kabbage is an online hub that small businesses can use to sell gift cards to consumers for later use.
  • MainVest, a crowdfunding platform, announced its new Main Street Initiative: a $2,000, zero-interest, 120-day loan for restaurants and other brick and mortars affected by the shutdown.
  • Opportunity FundPDF File, which specializes in lending to small businesses owned by women, immigrants, and people of color, is collaborating with investors and nonprofits to put together a fund that will provide grants and low-interest rate loans.

More funding sources and other resources are being added to this page daily, so businesses are encouraged to check back often. Of particular note is a loan package that the City of Fort Worth is looking to put together for small businesses, the details of which are still being ironed out.

“We realize that this has been an extremely challenging time for our business owners as they try to adjust to their new normal,” said the Sturns. “The city and all of our partners are working diligently to come up with solutions, and provide as much information as we can on ways to navigate this difficult situation. But it will take more than just one organization – a solution for something like this will truly need to be a team effort.”

Many of the city’s partners, and other organizations in the community, are stepping in to provide additional assistance.

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce is offering virtual resources and tools to educate and assist Fort Worth businesses. They’ve also partnered with Fort Worth HR to help local businesses with their needs around insurance and other HR issues.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of our small businesses,” said chamber President Brandom Gengelbach. “We’ve been making contact with as many of our members as we can to assess their needs and try to figure out ways we can help.”

In addition to their work with United Way on the Artist Relief Fund, Visit Fort Worth has also focused on a webpage that provides residents with a list of restaurants and small businesses who are offering curb-side service during this time of social distancing.

More information from partners is available on the city’s COVID-19 Information for Business page

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