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HAR Member Resources: Financial Help for REALTORS & Their Business

Dynamic List of Available Resources for HAR Members Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic (Updated Aug. 6, 2020 at 12:24 p.m.)

Houston City Council has unanimously passed a $15 million small business grant program to help those business that are suffering due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The city has contracted with the Houston Business Development Inc, a community development financial institution, to administer the funds. This includes a $1.5 million administrative cost, which leaves $13.5 million available for grants of up to $50,000 each. There will be a window to apply. This will be ready in a couple of weeks.  

The city hopes to reach businesses that have not benefited from other programs, like the federal Paycheck Protection Program. This program will not disburse funds on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants will be graded on a scoring matrix that accounts for factors including their number of employees, whether the business is in an under-served community, and whether it would have a legitimate chance of survival with the grant. There will not be stipulations on how businesses spend the funds, but the grants will come with training curriculum to teach businesses how they can retool or adjust to become more resilient. This money is being funded by the $404 million the city received from the CARES Act earlier this year.  

Requirements for eligibility:  

  • Businesses must have less than $2 million in pre-pandemic annual gross revenue 
  • Have been operating for more than a year 
    Demonstrate harm from governmental actions or other factors in the pandemic  
  • Be current on all city requirements and taxes  

More information to come once the application is available. 

The Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously June 30 to approve the Harris County Small Business Recovery Fund, or SBRF, a $30 million grant program designated for struggling small businesses that have not yet obtained financial assistance from other COVID-19 relief programs, according to a press release. Eligible businesses may receive a grant of up to $25,000 to cover payroll costs, rent and accounts payable, among other operating expenses. Funding for this program comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Apply here: https://www.harriscounty-sbrfund.org/.  

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are able to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. This advance is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. Recipients do not have to be approved for a loan in order to receive the advance, but the amount of the loan advance will be deducted from total loan eligibility. SBA will begin accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications on June 15 to qualified small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses.

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You were approved for a PPP loan. Now what? Effective May 15, the SBA has released the PPP Loan Forgiveness application and new guidance on how to claim forgiveness. PPP borrowers must file SBA Form 3508 in order to qualify. The form and instructions can be found here: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form–paycheck-protection-program-loan-forgiveness-application 

You may see that EIDL loans are available, but these are only open to certain Agricultural Businesses.  

5/4/2020 Update on SBA COVID-19 Disaster Relief Loans: The SBA is still accepting applications for PPP loans. EIDL loans are still not being accepted. The SBA Houston District office is hosting English and Spanish webinars from Monday, May 4, 2020 to Friday, May 8. The schedule can be found HERE

4/29/2020 Update on SBA COVID-19 Disaster Relief Loans: Loans are being processed by lenders and the SBA. The SBA has been experiencing some difficulties with applications being submitted into their system since it was not designed to take on so many applications. Please continue to go through the application process. EIDL loans are still not being accepted. The application process for those loans are still on hold while the backlog of the first round of applications is done being processed. The SBA will be announce when and if this portal will open.

4/28/2020 Update on SBA loans: The SBA is now accepting PPP loan applications. An additional $484 billion was approved by President Trump on Friday, April 24 for COVID-19 Disaster Relief for Small Businesses. PPP Loans have received $310 billion in new funds of those $484 billion. These will be issued on a first come basis so apply as soon as possible. If you need guidance with the process, these SBA Resource Partners can be of assistance:  

Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)  
713-752-8444  • www.sbdc.uh.edu  

Houston SCORE  
713-487-6565  • www.houston.score.org  

The WBEA Women’s Business Center (WBC)  
713-681-9232  • www.wbea-texas.org/womens-business-center  

US Small Business Administration (Houston Office)  
713-773-6500 • Sign-Up for Email Updates – www.sba.gov/tx/houston  
Follow SBA Houston on Twitter – @SBA_Houston  

At this time, EIDL loan applications have been stopped. It is believed that the new funds of $60 billion will be exhausted by the backlog of applications from the first round. It is not known at this time if this application will open back up. The SBA will announce as soon as it is open. Their current priority is to process the existing applications.  

The Houston District SBA Office is having two daily Webinars this week, ending May 1, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Check these out for information regarding PPP information, eligibility, and the application process. Click HERE for more information. 

NOTICE: PPP Resumes April 27, 2020 

The SBA will resume accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders on Monday, April 27, 2020 at 9:30am Central. The process to apply will be open once again. Processes have been changed in order to try to meet everyone’s needs. Do not wait to apply and apply as soon as possible.  

If you are applying for an SBA PPP Loan, here is some helpful information on how to calculate the maximum loan amount you could apply for by business type: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/How-to-Calculate-Loan-Amounts.pdf.  

The Houston SBA Office is offering a series of webinars that go over the information regarding applying for loans and resources available. They will be doing this every day from Monday, April 27 – Friday, May 1 at 9 a.m. central and 3 p.m. central. Information on how to access the webinars can be found HERE.

They have also compiled deck of slides with information on going through the application process. These may be helpful to small business owners as they go through the process. 

For the latest and more information on applying for COVID-19 disaster relief loans, make sure to also check out the Houston District SBA office

The CARES Act passed by congress created two new programs/grants through the Small Business Administration: the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grant.  The Act appropriates more than $360 billion for the administration of these two programs and the loans/grants that they will provide. 

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An FAQ Document on SBA assistance through the CARES Act can be found HERE.

The original amount of money designated to help Small Businesses, was distributed and exhausted very quickly. An additional $484 billion is pending approval from the house for the stimulus package.  Of this money, $320 billion will be allocated to the Payment Protection Program (PPP) designed to help struggling small business keep employees on the payroll. These funds could be available as soon as Thursday, April 23. Small businesses are encouraged to continuously check the SBA website at https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources until funds are available and the application process opens up again.  

In addition to the SBA financial relief programs provided by the CARES Act, Harris County has also passed a $10 million small business loan forgiveness program. If your business resides in Harris County, you can apply for both programs. Small business owners can apply up for up to $25,000 loans with 0% interest. This loan program will work on a first come, first serve basis so do not wait to apply. You can find more information on the Harris County COVID-19 Forgivable Loan Programand the application HERE

The CARES Act passed by Congress also benefits independent contractors such as REALTORS®. (Please be aware that with most legislation designed to help individuals, scammers are on standby so please be careful when sharing your personal information.)  Because of the new stimulus package that was just passed, REALTORS are now able to file for unemployment. Please be aware that the Texas Workforce Commission is working hard to get through applications, which includes hiring an additional 100 employees to meet demand and increasing hours. You can call or apply online. Follow the Texas Workforce Commission on Facebook for live updates.   

• TWC’s toll free number: 1-800-939-6631 
• Hours: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Apply Online HERE

Effective immediately, the Texas Workforce Commission has developed staggered access times. TWC asks that Texans call during the time allocated to their area code.  

Recommended Call and Access Times 
Area Code of Applicant Suggested Call Time 
Area Codes Beginning with 9 Mon-Wed-Fri: 8 a.m. – Noon 
Area Codes Beginning with 3, 4, 5,6 Mon-Wed-Fri: 1 – 5: p.m. 
Area codes Beginning with 7, 8 Tues -Thurs-Sat:   8 a.m. – Noon  
Area codes Beginning with 2 Tues-Thurs-Sat: 1 – 5 p.m. 

A Note from TWC: Texans will not be penalized for a delay due to call or user volume. Claims for individuals affected by COVID-19 are eligible to be backdated. Staggering claims will provide help to reduce frustrations for many Texans and provide better access to needed services. 

REALTORS® who are independent contractors or self-employed and are unable to earn an income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for disaster-related unemployment benefits. 
 
The following suggestions are intended to help Texas REALTORS® navigate the application process. 
 
Two Funding Resources for REALTORS® Affected by COVID-19 
 
There are two types of disaster-related unemployment benefits available until certain dates, so REALTORS® are advised to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of the funds. 
 
1. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) 
• Provides $600 per week for either up to 13 weeks or until July 31, whichever comes first 
• No income limit.   
 
2. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) 
• Provides between $207/week (minimum) and $521/week (maximum) for up to 39 weeks 
• Program expires Dec. 26, 2020 
• To increase the amount beyond the minimum, self-employed/independent contractors should submit income verification documents (1099, Schedule F, C, or SE) to sanantonio.uimail@twc.state.tx.us
 
Applicants are automatically enrolled in both programs and can receive FPUC and PUA funds simultaneously. 
 
Follow These Steps to File Online 
Please note that TWC’s system wasn’t designed to accommodate independent contractors, so some of the questions or terminology in the application may not apply to you as a REALTOR®. Complete the application as it best describes your situation. 
 
1. Visit TWC’s website at twc.texas.gov.
2. Create an account—you’ll need a User ID and password to file for unemployment.
a. From the homepage, find the Quick Links list in the blue bar near the top, then click “Unemployment Benefits Services” on the list. From the UBS page, click “Log on with your existing TWC User ID or create a new User ID” and follow the steps to create a new User ID (if you don’t already have an account).
b. Here’s a link directly to the page for creating a new User ID: https://apps.twc.state.tx.us/UBS/security/logon.do.
c. Here’s a TWC tutorial on creating a User ID, using screenshots from the website.
3. Complete the application.
a. The UBS page includes a link to “Apply for Benefits.
b. TWC created this tutorial that provides general guidelines.
c. Under “Reason No Longer Working,” select “Disaster” and be sure to indicate in the details that you were impacted by COVID-19 or coronavirus.
4. Once you have submitted your application, you’ll receive information about next steps, requirements, and instructions.
a. Check out TWC’s list of “Next Steps,” such as setting up a PIN, signing up to receive important messages, and choosing a benefit payment method. 
 
Why You May Receive an Initial Denial 
TWC’s system automatically searches for an applicant’s reported W-2 income, so you may receive a message that your application is denied because you had $0 reported last year. 
 
This is because TWC’s system was not designed to accept applications from independent contractors/self-employed individuals—TWC staff advises those applicants to ignore the initial denial letter. 
 
Check Your TWC Inbox Often 
Once you have applied, be sure you’re receiving TWC’s messages by logging on and selecting “Electronic Correspondence” from the Quick Links menu. This free service allows you to receive unemployment notices and forms electronically in a secure, online mailbox. 
 
Be sure to check these messages frequently—information about your claim will be sent here. You are responsible for regularly checking for these messages. 
 
You Must Request Payment 
TWC will not automatically send you payments—you must request payment through TWC’s system every two weeks online or by phone. Do not wait for TWC to notify you of your eligibility. Applicants will receive instructions for requesting payment after applying. Click here to learn more about requesting payment
 
If you applied before April 9, 2020, you will be automatically enrolled in the federal programs; however, you should submit a request for payment before waiting for TWC to notify you. 
 
Select Your Payment Option 
Choose a benefit payment method to receive funds: either direct deposit—the preferred, faster method—or a debit card.
Direct Deposit: For more information see Receiving Benefit Payments by Direct Deposit
Debit Card: For more information see Receiving Benefit Payments by Debit Card

You can change your payment option online or by phone: Log on to UBS and select Change Payment Option from the Quick Links menu. Call Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and select option 5. 
 
Funds Are Taxable 
Unemployment benefits are taxable, so TWC will send you a 1099 to report the income on your 2020 federal income taxes next year. Recipients may wish to consider withholding a percentage of the funds for tax purposes. 
 
Keep Trying 
TWC’s online and phone systems have been inundated with applicants, so it may take time to complete your application. TWC is increasing their capacity and staffing to expedite the application process and have advised applicants to keep trying until they are able to successfully apply and request funds. 
 
TWC’s help line at 800-939-6631 is now open from 7 a.m. Central to 7 p.m. Central, seven days a week. 

NAR has compiled a breakdown of unemployment assistance for REALTORS through the CARES Act.  

The Society for Human Resource Management has laid out the difference between Furloughs, Layoffs, and Reductions in Force. It helps give an idea of why a Furlough is better for companies and employees alike. 

LEARN MORE

Employers can find useful COVID-19 resources HERE.  

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