BURNET, Texas - Typically the town square in Burnet is a busy place, but not now. The assistance plan launched by the city is designed to help local businesses stay alive during the COVID-19 shutdown.
City manager David Vaughn called the effort historic. “I think this is one of the most important things we’ve done for the community in the 20 years that I’ve been here,” said Vaughn.
The assistance program provides two different types of loans, with the main focus on retailers and restaurants.
“This is not a program designed to be enough money to get you through the next month but it's designed with the idea of being kind of a bridge loan program to help a business to get to the point they have time to fill out their SBA loans and go through other traditional processes for assistance,” said Vaughn.
The amount provided ranges from $5,000, up to $15,000 for larger businesses. The amount given out is based on tax revenue that owners like Trace Catlin generated in previous years.
“I couldn’t be more happy with the way our small town has stepped up,” said Catlin.
Catlin owns the Trailblazer Grill and explained how he plans to use his loan. “So we’re doing everything we can to pay rent, to keep the utilities on, to keep some key employees working right now," he said.
Loan repayment does not start until June 2021. The deal includes a special stop clause.
“If they make their first payments on time and they’re still in business on May 30, 2022, then the second half of the loan in most cases is forgiven,” said Vaughn.
The money from this program is coming from a half-cent sales tax that feeds an economic development fund. So far the city has provided almost 50 loans totaling nearly $200,000. No one has announced a permanent closure yet, according to the mayor.
“I believe, had not done the economic development program that we did we certainly would have seen that because we heard and adorably that people were very close to closing their doors had they not been able to receive help then they would’ve had to close their doors,” said Mayor Crista Goble Bromley.
A smaller amount of money is set aside for businesses that are not retail or restaurants, including places like auto shops, photography services and those that recently opened. The later is what Ashley Becvar fell into.
“We are family-owned so we are not getting a paycheck right now,” said Becvar.
Her store got a $2,000 loan because she relocated to the town square in January. Becvar said without the money she would have to close her doors for good. “So because we just did that we haven’t had enough time to really put a bunch of funds back to stay open for an extended amount of time without any sales,” said Becvar.
John Will with the Burnet Merchant’s Association said that some business owners decided not to apply for the loan right now because of the uncertainty regarding when all stores will be allowed back open. According to Will, store owners don’t know if they will still be in business a month from now, let alone in 2022.
The city is still taking applications for loans. Another assistance program is being considered in case the viral shutdown continues into the summer.
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