UPDATE: The deadline to use the CARES Act Funds has been extended to December 31, 2021. Williamson County will be announcing plans on how the County will spend the remaining approximately $30 million with the new deadline in mind.
Williamson County has launched Wilco Forward, a grant program funded through the approximately $93 million the County received from the CARES Act and pursuant to Texas Local Government Code Ch 381. The program was broken into three segments.
In Phase I, the County set aside $35 million for grants to Williamson County small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The maximum amount a business could receive was $30,000. The deadline to apply for small business funding was June 30, 2020.
Phase II allocated more than $25 million in funding for cities, emergency service districts, the Williamson County and Cities Health District, Bluebonnet Trails, and the YMCA to assist with additional costs due to COVID-19.
Wilco Forward Phase III is funded with $5 million from a combination of Community Development Block Grant funds and federal CARES Act funds. Phase III provides rent and utility assistance to residents that are in need through partnerships with local non-profits. Terms of agreement were approved between Williamson County and The Caring Place, The Salvation Army, the Round Rock Serving Center, and Hill Country Community Ministries.
“Now that we have assisted thousands of small businesses in our community, it is important to turn our attention to supporting the residents in Williamson County that have been dealing with the financial burdens COVID-19 has caused. We hope this assistance gives those in need some relief,” said Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey.
These agencies serve as conduits for assistance. These agencies will be reimbursed by the County for rent assistance and/or utility assistance provided to a landlord, property management company, or utility company between March 1 through December 30, for a total of up to $5 million. The County will monitor the total amount of funds spent to date so that the Phase III budget is not exceeded.
All three agencies will follow the criteria below to assess eligibility:
- All residences assisted must be located in Williamson County, but not within the city limits of Austin
- Up to the rent amount based on the lease agreement plus late fees for up to a total of 3 months
- For approved applications, the applicant must request additional funds after the first month of assistance on an as needed basis
- Up to $1,500 of utility assistance per residence on an as needed basis
- Applicant must show evidence that the assistance is needed due to issues caused by COVID-19.
Each agency will handle the application and vetting process in their service areas, along with the issuing of the checks directly to the landlord, property management company, or utility company. The following are the service areas for each entity. Residents living in the city limits of Austin should contact the City of Austin for assistance at austintexas.gov.
- Round Rock Area Serving Center: Round Rock, Brushy Creek/Fern Bluff MUD, Hutto areas outside of Georgetown ISD, zip code 78717 in Williamson County, but not in the city limits of Austin
- The Caring Place: Georgetown, Andice, Bartlett, Florence, Granger, Jarrell, Jonah, Schwertner, Walburg, Weir, Hutto areas within Georgetown ISD
- The Salvation Army: Cedar Park, Coupland, Leander, Liberty Hill, Taylor, Thrall, and all other areas of Williamson County not served by the other two agencies, zip codes 78729 and 78750 in Williamson County, but not in the city limits of Austin
- Hill Country Community Ministries: Cedar Park, Leander, and all other areas on the west side of Williamson County.
Residents will contact the agency serving their city to be able to request financial assistance.
In Phase IV, approved on October 6, 2020, the Williamson County Commissioners Court allocated $12 million from federal CARES Act funds to reimburse schools and school districts located in Williamson County for COVID-19 related expenses in Phase IV of the Wilco Forward program. The funding for this Phase IV program was re-allocated from the $20 million previous allocated to cities in Phase II. As a result of good planning and good stewardship, the needs of the cities were far less than originally expected.
The plan includes funding for Independent School Districts (ISDs) centrally located in Williamson County, charter schools whose campus must be located in Williamson County, and private schools with at least 100 students, four grade levels, and students attended in-person at least three days per week pre-COVID located in Williamson County. The schools would be able to apply for grant funds to cover up to $100 per student in expenses related to COVID-19. For school districts whose total allocation is under $100,000, they will be allotted the lesser of $200 per student or $100,000. The deadline to apply for funding has been extended to November 20, 2020. On November 10, the Commissioners Court also included school districts in Pflugerville, Lexington, Thorndale, and Burnet that have students from Williamson County.
In Phase V, approved on November 17, 2020, the Williamson County Commissioners Court allocated $500,000 to support local food banks through the Wilco Forward Program, funded by CARES Act Funds. Organizations that work as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and provide food and other services to community members can apply to be reimbursed for their increased expenses and receipts accrued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-profits eligible will receive a one-time check ranging from $12,000 to $62,000, depending on the need of the entity. Applications have been distributed to area food banks who have until Friday, December 11, to apply.
The Small Business Grant Program has expired.