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El Paso small business relief fund quickly overwhelmed with grant requests

EL PASO, Texas -- An effort by El Paso's city and county governments to soften the blow on local businesses struggling to survive because of the coronavirus pandemic needed life support just hours after its debut.

The city and county governments each pitched in $1 million to Liftfund, a non-profit group aimed at helping small businesses. The help, however, has been complicated by an overwhelming response from business owners trying to keep afloat with a loan or grant. While $1.5 million was set aside for interest-free loans, the remaining $500,000 is being used for grants.

“It was saturated, there was a lot of businesses that were asking for the help - the grant - and unfortunately, we couldn’t get anywhere,” body shop owner Gilberto Anchondo said.

Business at Anchondo’s body shop has come to a screeching halt. He says insurance companies are no longer processing claims, a major part of his revenues. So when Anchondo learned about LiftFund, he visited soon after the website application was available.

“Unfortunately, those went fast: I mean, as you can imagine, $500,000 doesn’t go very far," said Lupe Mares, vice president of LiftFund,"a hundred applications, that's $500,000 right there.”

Regardless of what Mares' numbers and math look like, Anchondo only sees what they might mean to him.

“It can give us an impulse, at least to cover a few bills," he said. "Then we have some outstanding accounts of materials that we owe: parts. Even a little bit of a payroll here.”

However, businesses can still apply for interest-free loans. Mares is encouraging small-business owners to apply for them. They are asking corporations to donate to LiftFund to help business owners like Anchondo.

“I think there’s too many businesses for $2 million," Anchondo said. "So I hope we can maybe round up some other monies somewhere.”

Coronavirus Video / El Paso / News / Top Stories / Video

Saul Saenz

El Paso native Saul Saenz is a veteran reporter who also hosts ABC-7 Extra.

Larry Monarrez

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