Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times
Published 10:38 a.m. MT April 13, 2020 | Updated 3:04 p.m. MT April 13, 2020
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AUSTIN — Goldman Sachs will provide $50 million in loans to Texas small businesses, offering a “lifeline” for businesses struggling during the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday.
The news comes ahead of an announcement expected from Abbott later this week related to a plan for reopening Texas businesses.
“What this capital will do is provide these companies the resources they need to keep employees on the payroll the remaining few weeks or so until businesses can begin that process of opening back up,” Abbott said.
More: Coronavirus in Texas: Abbott says order coming soon related to plan for reopening businesses
The governor was joined via video conference by Janie Barrera, president and CEO of LiftFund, and John Waldron, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, as well as business owners. Goldman Sachs is an investment banking, securities and investment management firm.
Gov. Greg Abbott provides an update on the state’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. He spoke in the Texas Capitol on March 28, 2020. (Photo: Still image from pool video)
The loans will be made through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and are part of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program that launched in 2009.
Goldman Sachs is providing the capital, and the LiftFund and other community development financial institutions will administer the funds. LiftFund is a San Antonio-based nonprofit organization that helps provide small business loans.
“These emergency loans will be made available by LiftFund and other (community development financial institutions) through the paycheck protection program under the CARES Act,” Waldron said. “They will provide urgent cash flow assistance and are designed to be partially or wholly forgiven if necessary criteria are met.”
Goldman Sachs is providing the funds as part of $550 million commitment nationally to COVID-19 relief.
More than 133,000 people in Texas have been tested for COVID-19, Abbott said Monday. There are more than 13,800 positive cases. More than 1,100 people are hospitalized and there have been 286 fatalities in the state. More than 2,200 have recovered from the virus, Abbott said.
Many Texas businesses and employees are struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Abbott said there have been a record number of Texans applying for unemployment benefits.
The Texas Workforce Commission, which handles unemployment benefits, last week received 14 million calls, said Cisco Gamez on a Monday news conference held over video. That’s down from the previous week where 15 million calls were received, he said.
April 7 was the commission’s highest day of calls, when they it received 3.4 million in a 24-hour period, with about 177,000 unique callers. Before COVID-19, the commission received about 13,000 calls per day on average.
More than 1.1 million Texans have applied for unemployment insurance since the week ending March 14, Gamez said in an email. More than $400 million has been paid out in benefits, he said.
“We are working around the clock,” Gamez said. “We are extending our hours. We are working into the weekend to help all of the Texans in need.”
During a Friday news conference, Abbott said an executive order is coming soon on “what will be done in Texas about reopening Texas businesses.”
On Monday, he said, “Later this week, I will outline both safe and healthy strategies where we can begin the process of going about reopening businesses in Texas and revitalizing our economy.”
The priority in Texas remains slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives, but the economic impact of the virus cannot be ignored, Abbott said.
More: COVID-19 layoffs: El Paso workers, businesspeople struggle with new economic realities
“Texans need relief, so that they can provide for their families and meet the family’s daily needs,” Abbott said.
Abbott did not get into the specifics of a timeline for reopening the economy. Testing will also be a component of reopening the state, Abbott said.
Abbott noted that in the coming days, Texans will be introduced to a “comprehensive team” that will carefully evaluate what must be done “for Texas to open back up, while ensuring what we are doing is consistent with data, with medical analysis, as well as strategies about which types of businesses will be able to open up.”
“This is not going to be a rush the gates, everybody is able to suddenly reopen all at once,” Abbott said.
Abbott said he has been in communication with President Donald Trump as well as Vice President Mike Pence over the weekend.
For weeks, the White House team has been communicating with governors and discussing “the way in which we will all be working in collaboration to ensure that we will be able to slowly, strategically, smartly and safely begin to open up the expansion of economic development in the United States,” Abbott said.
“They understand … the states are so varied in the United States,” Abbott said. “I think that there will be a level of flexibility for states and maybe even within a state about what type of strategy may work best, knowing that even within the state of Texas, there are certainly areas that are harder hit by the coronavirus than are others.”
Eleanor Dearman may be reached at 361-244-0047; firstname.lastname@example.org; @EllyDearman on Twitter.
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