The City of Pharr set up an emergency business loan program similar to other cities – and then did one better in reaching out to its community.
The city established the Pharr COVID Recovery Center at its events center to handle all sort of inquiries related to the pandemic outbreak. Among those questions is how local businesses can apply for funds from the Pharr CARES Small Business Loan Program. It provides forgivable loans ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 for eligible businesses in Pharr.
The recovery center helps to guide applicants through the loan process. It also acts as a one-stop shop to assist local residents with individual questions on coping with COVID-19 hardships. The city is working with residents to keep their utilities and basic services going during the pandemic. The center works to make that happen along with boosting local businesses.
“We are being proactive in doing everything possible to help our citizens and businesses,” said Victor Perez, the executive director of the Pharr Economic Development Corp.
“A Little Bit Of Everything”
The Pharr CARES Loan Program will start as a $300,000 fund. There are hopes of increasing it to $800,000 if federal COVID-19 emergency resources come through via county government dispersals. The program will charge zero-percent interest with payment deferment for the first six months. The CARES program seeks to provide working capital for personnel costs, rent or commercial mortgage payments, equipment and supplies.
The Pharr EDC is accepting the loan applications while staff assesses them. The final decisions on approvals come from Perez and his staff. At the recovery center, meanwhile, Karina Lopez is overseeing individual needs and requests related to hardships brought on by COVID-19. Lopez and her staff at the event center are helping local businesses to comply with the city’s work safe requirements relating to operating during the coronavirus era.
“The city is trying to bridge that gap,” said Lopez, the interim president of the Pharr Chamber of Commerce and member of the EDC staff. “We want to get information to our residents and businesses to provide a sense of relief that they can receive financial help.”
The COVID-19 business shutdowns occurred during a time when Pharr is active with developments and trade across its international bridge. The Pharr International Bridge is the top crossing along the border in volumes of produce shipments. All but two spaces at the Pharr Produce District are filled, with 29 businesses occupying the other lots.
Perez refers to the recent opening of a Bissell Vacuum manufacturing and support facility near the bridge that works in tandem with a maquiladora in Mexico as a new addition to the city’s business community. Top Golf and CarMax are also recent openings in Pharr, adding to its active business development.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Perez said. “The city of Pharr doesn’t depend on retail as much as some other cities. Construction and growth has continued throughout all of this (COVID crisis).”