Dallas City Council working to fast-track relief for renters, small business owners

Dallas city council members are working to fast track relief for small businesses that may not be able to get federal relief.  The city is also looking to provide rent assistance for people who have lost their income.

Council members are working to get funds out to tenants and small businesses soon after a vote that is set to take place next Wednesday.

Tom Fleming, owner of Crossroads Diner in Far North Dallas, is among the many small business owners forced to shut down.

“To-go business for breakfast is a really small part of our business,” he said. “I wasn’t going to try to decide who do I pick to work? We decided to temporarily close.”

Fleming says he originally thought he would only have to stay closed for a few weeks or a month. But without any money coming in and no immediate end to the stay-at-home order in sight, he decided to lay off 25 employees.

“There are people I’ve worked with 10 years,” he said.

To be eligible for the proposed city assistance, businesses, like Fleming's, would need to show a 25 percent drop in revenue since social distancing policies were put in place.

“We need to get these dollars allocated,” said Dallas Councilman Casey Thomas. “We need to create programs and get dollars out the door so we can most help to those in need.”

Council members want the city grants or loans to go to businesses that were not able to get federal SBA loans. They will also need to show they have 80 percent of the jobs they had Feb. 29, six months after receiving the payment.

“Helping small businesses come back to life once COVID is over is what I would like to see,” said Councilman Chad West.

Elizabeth Reich, the city's chief financial officer, expects Dallas to lose $30 million in sales tax revenue.

“For perspective, the entire library system is 30 million,” she said. “That is a significant amount of money for the city.”

For business owners like Fleming, the continued uncertainty is the hardest part to swallow.

“I guess I’m like everyone else,” he said. “When will this end? What will this be like on the other side? How will I pay my mortgage? Put food on the table?”

The full city council is set to vote on both small business assistance and rent assistance next Wednesday. For renter's assistance, up to $1,200 for three months would be available for those in a certain income range who lost their income due to the pandemic.