AUSTIN, TX — Small businesses in Austin hit hard by the new coronavirus outbreak that has stalled commerce now can apply for loans of up to $35,000 via the Austin Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program, officials announced Wednesday.

The City of Austin’s Economic Development Department received approval from the Austin City Council and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create the program designed to help businesses retain employees by providing emergency relief until businesses receive federal assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, city officials said in a news release.

“We understand that small businesses in Austin are still navigating the road to economic recovery,” Veronica Briseño, director of Austin’s Economic Development Department, explained in a prepared statement. “The Austin Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program will help small businesses retain employees and pay for expenses like rent and fixed debt. This is one of the many ways our department is supporting small, local businesses experiencing economic loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To be eligible for the loan program, businesses must be headquartered in a City of Austin Council district. Applicants must be able to demonstrate an economic loss associated with the new coronavirus pandemic, and they must have already applied for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan. All loans must be repaid in 12 months and have a 3.75 percent interest rate.

Officials explained the repayment provision allows the City of Austin to make additional loans to other small businesses. When the Austin City Council approved Resolution 20200326-088, non-profit organizations were included on the list of eligible businesses, officials added.

Austin’s Economic Development Department also needed approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before launching the program since the loans are financed through the federal Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, officials noted. However, the agency did not approve the city’s request to offer loans to non-profits, officials said.

“While we are disappointed that non-profits will not be eligible for this program, we will continue to identify resources within the City of Austin to ensure our non-profit organizations and their employees receive assistance during this time,” Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, deputy director of the City of Austin Economic Development Department, said.

Those interested in applying for the Austin Economic Injury Bridge Loan Program are urged to submit a request for an application or visit Visit the City of Austin’s COVID-19: Information for Business & Industries for more information on resources available for local businesses and their employees.