BEDC cash a 'life raft' to Bastrop businesses; most expected to survive

25 May 2020

Two months ago, Tom Dickey was forced to lay off 70% of his staff. The economic downturn catalyzed by the spreading coronavirus had decimated the revenue of his downtown restaurant to such a degree that his employees were better off filing for unemployment.

These days, things are looking a little brighter. After receiving two rounds of relief grants issued by the Bastrop Economic Development Corp. totaling $9,500, Neighbor’s Kitchen and Yard has hired on nearly all the employees he let go, plus three more.

Neighbor’s Kitchen and Yard was one of 124 local businesses that received a portion of $400,000 the BEDC dished out in direct cash payments in April and May. Without it, Dickey’s not sure how his business would have fared.

“The whole state ought to look at how that organization pivoted in such a short period of time and responded to the needs of the local business community,” Dickey said. “If that doesn’t become a case study in every MBA program across the nation, I don’t know what should be.”

The BEDC cash grants, which require no repayment, required each business to sign a performance agreement in which they agree to use the money to retain jobs, create new jobs lost during the pandemic, or for capital improvements. Dickey spent a portion of his money buying new picnic tables to begin hosting socially-distanced diners on his restaurant’s outside yard after Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants to reopen at 25% capacity earlier this month. Other funds went towards getting the place ready to operate according to health and safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, like disinfectants, personal protective equipment for the staff and hand sanitizer.

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