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EDC stimulus fund program clarifies demands

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The Bandera Economic Development Corp. plans to reach out to more Bandera businesses to see if they want to apply for stimulus funds to help them cope with the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic but those businesses will need to submit certain financial records to the EDC to prove they qualify.

That was what a majority of the EDC board favored at a long, at-times heated meeting on Wednesday, June 3.

Board President Toni Kunz said the board had changed its mind about whether financial records concerning sales tax and property tax payments, along with utilities and rent or mortgage payments, would need to be placed on file by applicants for a portion of the $100,000 stimulus fund the EDC created.

Originally, she said, the board had agreed to have a committee check those records to make sure they were current and complete but not to require that the records be included as part of the application that would be open to public scrutiny and could jeopardize the confidentiality of some business records.

A majority of the board decided, however, that they wanted to see those records on file so it was clear that the applicants qualified for the assistance, even though those who favored confidentiality feared the requirement would keep some businesses from applying for aid.

Bandera City Councilwoman Lynn Palmer, who also is a member of the EDC board, said council in agreeing to set up the fund for the EDC had required that documents verifying businesses’ tax status and expenses would be submitted with the application.

She did not think requiring those documents from businesses seeking aid would discourage them from applying since the information the EDC is seeking is easily available to anyone seeking it.

“When the file is open, there should be no question whether this business met the requirement for funding. It should be in the file,” said Palmer. “That’s how you do business.”

She said she knew of one instance in which a business was incorrectly listed as having been current on its personal property tax payments when it was not. That made it eligible to receive stimulus funds when records would have shown it was not.

“To me, that’s unacceptable,” said Palmer.

To date, about $59,559 of the $100,000 set aside for stimulus grants has been allocated to 33 Bandera businesses whose applications showed they were current on their taxes and qualified for the aid.

Forty-seven businesses had applied for the assistance, and seven applications were still under review, Kunz said. Seven other applicants did not qualify because of they did not pay sales taxes to the city or they did not answer other questions in the application.

Businesses in Bandera are eligible for grants of up to $2,500 if they had been identified as “non-essential” as part of the rules established in the fight against the coronavirus and were shut down longer than other businesses that were classified as “essential.”

Essential businesses are eligible for up to $1,000 in aid from EDC’s fund.

Kunz said all 11 of the “essential” businesses that have applied for grants received the full $1,000, while 14 of the 22 “non-essential” businesses received the full amount.

Grant funds can be used by businesses to pay mortgages, rent or utility bills that could not be paid in full because of the recent economic downturn.

The EDC last week also decided to give board members more time to review grant applications to make sure they are complete and to bring the applications to the full board for review if any questions remain unresolved.

In addition, they accepted the resignation of Board Member Rhonda Carrell whose professional business demands had grown so much in recent weeks she did not feel she could devote the time needed to handle EDC matters properly and agreed to seek bids from nonprofit organizations and other groups who want to organize and run the Christmas Lights in the Park program this year.

Bid proposals for that program need to be submitted to the EDC by July 17. For more information about the initiative, contact the EDC online at banderaedc@gmail.com.