Dave Rogers

For The Record

Orange County’s Economic Development Corporation has released online the application forms for Harvey Small Business Disaster Recovery Grants.

Qualifying Orange County businesses will be eligible to receive a $5,000 grant to assist with recovery efforts after the record flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.

“Economic development is more than recruiting new businesses, and it is important to provide the same resources for success to the businesses that have already chosen Orange County,” Jessica Hill, executive director for the EDC, said.

Orange County Commissioners’ Court approved the grant criteria and application at its weekly meeting Tuesday.

Applications may be turned in between Oct. 23 and Nov. 3 in the Orange County EDC office in the County Administration Building at 123 S. 6th Street.

Applications must be submitted in person on a first-come, first-served basis. The first 40 applications will be reviewed for eligibility. Additional applications will be placed on a waiting list pending the availability of subsequent funding.

The application can be downloaded at www.orangecountyedc.com/harvey-disaster-recovery/

Applicant businesses may also pick up applications in person at their local Chamber of Commerce, local City Hall, Lamar University Small Business Development Center and the Orange County EDC.

The grants are funded by $150,000 built into the county’s 2017-18 budget to use for the EDC to use for land acquisition. That was before Tropical Storm Harvey dumped record rainfall on the area and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to homes, business and institutions.

Another $50,000 from the EDC budget was added to fund 40 of the $5,000 grants.

“These are just for the purposes of helping small businesses jumpstart their recovery efforts while they’re still waiting on FEMA or SBA funding and insurance payouts,” Hill said.

“These are just a few dollars to get in their pockets now, so they can get their doors back open and start some of that recovery now.”

Approved funds can be used for replacing equipment, inventory loss, payroll or working capital, site improvements or insurance deductibles.

Applicants must provide a complete application, copy of drivers license, proof of business ownership and proof of eligible use of grant proceeds.

For questions about the grants, call Hill at 409-540-9338.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners paid bills of $167,000 and voted to spend $425,000 to purchase 10 new fully equipped Ford Expeditions for use by the Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioners tabled until next week discussion of additional pay for employees during disasters. Currently, all employees receive their regular 40 hours pay per week, whether they evacuate or help out during the disaster, with those who stay and work receiving time and a half for overtime.

After the meeting, County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton provided a couple of Harvey-related updates:

He said that debris haulers had so far picked up 60,000 cubic yards of debris from the city of Orange and 60,000 cubic yards of debris from the rest of Orange County.

He said 56 people stayed Monday night at the 250-person tent facility at the Orange Boat Ramp.

Carlton said officials were looking to close the temporary shelter facility by the start of next week.

“They are trying to transition people out,” he said. “October 15 is the target date for it to be able to close.

“That doesn’t mean people are going to be kicked out, left in the parking lot standing there. They’re working to get all those people temporary housing — apartments, trailers,  homes to rent if they can find them, whatever.

“If they can’t find something for them, what they’ll probably do is move whoever’s left back into the other shelter that’s still open in Port Arthur.

“They still have around 150 there, so for the state — the state is funding all of those – it’s more cost effective to move them over to Port Arthur instead of having a full operation here and full operation there.”