HAYS COUNTY, Texas – The Hays County Emergency Cash Assistance Program (ECAP) successfully awarded $600,000 in free grants to 92 small businesses throughout Hays County, helping to keep doors open and jobs intact throughout the region.
The ECAP fund, which was initiated by the Hays County Commissioners Court in late August, is a collaboration between the County, the City of Kyle, PeopleFund, and GSMP.
The fund provided grants of up to $10,000 to qualifying small businesses on a first-come, first-served basis.
Of the 92 businesses assisted, 37 were from San Marcos, 18 from Buda, 16 from Dripping Springs/Driftwood, 14 from Kyle, and 7 from Wimberley.
Businesses that demonstrated need specifically from the impact of COVID-19 received between $1,000 and $10,000, with the average business receiving $6,520.
Barbara Thomason, director of business retention and expansion for GSMP & coordinator of the ECAP Committee, reported the grant’s impact to the commissioners’ court on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
In her presentation, Thomason noted the childcare industry didn’t take advantage of ECAP.
“This is an industry that is a critical key to the success of the business because so many businesses depend on childcare,” Thomason said. “And this is an industry that was impacted with administrative costs and reduced child-teacher ratios, costs due to health and safety supplies that they had to purchase, and they already have extremely thin margins.”
The committee recommended additional assistance in some form for the childcare sector, attention be paid to individuals who are falling through the cracks from the hospitality industry, and sending out a follow-up survey to recipients in one to two months.
Jeannene Herber, Owner of Lucky Sky Graphics, said when businesses were originally shut down, she thought it was the end of the year for them.
“Then the phone started ringing,” Herber said. “And I started getting emergency calls for signage…in the process, one of my staff members chose to leave. And then the other person got sick and was gone for 10 weeks, so it was me by myself for 10 weeks trying to keep up with orders and fill emergency spots.”
Herber said with the grant funding, they were able to update their technology to help track orders a little easier.
“Our business changed because of COVID,” Herber said. “We went from printing business cards and networking and meeting people face to face to doing more signage, banners, and car wraps. We actually changed gears and refocused everything.”
Simone Corprew, Executive Manager of the Wimberley Players, said COVID forced their non-profit organization to reimagine how they worked as well.
With COVID-19 and physical distancing restrictions, entertainment services such as theaters were forced to close or accommodate smaller audiences.
According to Corprew, after the pandemic hit, the Wimberley Players began hosting outdoor movie screenings to help provide that escape for the community; the organization built a stage in the theater parking lot and grouped chairs in boxes to accommodate multiple guests from a household and apply social distancing.
In addition, Corprew said the organization livestreamed their first performance for the community to view online; actors rehearsed over zoom and received a COVID test before being brought together for the performance.
Through the use of multiple cameras and a switchboard, which were donated for the performance, viewers were able to experience multiple shots throughout the performance instead of simply staring at the stage.
Corprew said the Wimberley Players have purchased three of their own cameras and intend to livestream their shows this year due to in-person audience limitations.
According to GSMP, the businesses that were assisted by the grant were primarily in the industries of food and hospitality, retail, and health and beauty.
“Supporting and preserving our small businesses saves jobs vital to the financial stability of families and contributes to the economic wellbeing and recovery of our region during this challenging time,” said Barbara Thomason, director of business retention and expansion for GSMP & coordinator of the ECAP Committee.
“If it wasn’t for ECAP, I don’t know where I would be,” said Carolina Garza, owner of Big Rob’s Burgers in Kyle, which received $8,500 from the grant fund. “We didn’t get PPP funding on the first round and we were incredibly stressed on how to make ends meet. With ECAP, we were able to make rent, tweak our business model, and avoid staff layoffs.”