what a relief

More than 51,000 Harris County families receive crucial COVID aid thanks to local charity

Houston families received massive aid thanks to Catholic Charities. Family Houston/Facebook

The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on families in need. But in a much-needed bright spot, a local organization has initiated help to those hardest hit by the COVID downturn.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston announced that more than 51,000 families have received aid from the $61.4 million from the Harris County COVID-19 Emergency Direct Assistance Program.

Need-based funds came courtesy of the county's CARES funding and provided a one-time, $1,200 payment to 51,167 eligible applicants, per a press release.
Money was distributed nearly equally across Harris County's four precincts (except for the Precinct 2 surplus), including Houston residents inside Harris County.

To ensure fairness, families were selected from the application pool using a random statistical model that ensured no discrimination, according to Catholic Charities. Funds could be used for any type of emergency expense (housing, food, utilities, healthcare, childcare, transportation, etc.), and families could apply without cooperation from a landlord.

Breaking down the numbers provided in a press release, Harris County initially designated $40 million for the fund; another $20 million was allocated in November. An additional $1.4 million was allocated to the Direct Assistance fund and was earmarked directly for Precinct 2 recipients due to a shortfall of participants in the County's Small Business Grant Program, bringing the program's total to $61.4 million.

Even non-citizen residents who were unable to obtain CARES money due to federal grant requirements will be helped thanks to private funds; those monies are currently being distributed, according to the charity.

Meanwhile, the program provided jobs to nearly 250 laid-off residents, injecting $2.2. million into the local economy.

"Catholic Charities is honored and grateful that Harris County selected our team to serve the community in this way," said Catholic Charities' president and CEO Cynthia N. Colbert, in a statement. "This task was in line with our faith-based mission, which compels us to ensure that every client is treated with respect and dignity."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

The SBA announced plans to open 20 new centers to serve female entrepreneurs — and one is coming to the Houston area. Photo via Getty Images

The Houston area is benefitting from national funding that will be dedicated to creating female-focused resource centers across the country.

The United States Small Business Administration announced grant funding to launch 20 new Women's Business Centers (WBC) across the country. The centers, which are slated to go into rural and underserved markets, will also be partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

With the funds from the grant and through a partnership with the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce, the new center will rise in Northeast Houston to serve the Montgomery, East Harris and Chambers' Counties.

"We are incredibly excited that an organization as prominent as the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce is joining the SBA team," says Tim Jeffcoat, director if the SBA in Houston. "We are looking forward to working with them to empower women-owned businesses in Houston to reach new heights of success."

These new efforts represent the largest expansion of the WBC program in its 30-year existence.

"We are thrilled to partner with the SBA in opening another Women's Business Center, providing resources and tools for our region's women-led organizations to launch and expand," says Suzan Deison, CEO, president and founder of the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce. "We are honored the SBA chose to partner with us to expand needed services in Montgomery, East Harris & Chambers' counties, especially during these challenging times."

The SBA has 136 centers open across the country, and each offers business counseling, training, networking, workshops, and more to area female entrepreneurs.

"Opening the doors to the new Women's Business Centers is crucial to the vitality of women-owned small business owners. This network expansion will provide female entrepreneurs with the resources they need to start, grow, and expand their businesses," says Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development Allen Gutierrez. "We look forward to the continued success of the WBC program as it contributes to the overall health of our economy and creates jobs in their local communities."

According to the release, the timing of these new centers is especially important as entrepreneurs continue to be challenged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Over the past several months, we have seen Women's Business Centers provide aid to our nation's innovative and determined entrepreneurs, allowing countless small business owners to pivot with confidence to stay afloat during the pandemic," says SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. "Expanding the WBC program is part of this Administration's longstanding commitment to the success of female entrepreneurs and women-owned small businesses. Adding these new Women's Business Centers to the already existing network of centers across America will boost timely resources to our nation's female economic drivers, providing them with local training and counseling."

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