The City of Houston recently launched a program providing free legal advice to small businesses affected by COVID-19. The Houston Small Business Legal Consultations Program is led by the city's Office of Business Opportunity as well Vinson & Elkins, an international law firm headquartered here in Houston.
We take a look at the program and some of the legal challenges small business owners are facing in light of the pandemic.
Our guests on this episode of Small Biz Insider are Ellyn Josef, Pro Bono Counsel for Vinson and Elkins, and attorney Anton Krayniy, also with V&E.
Here are a few takeaways:
- When it comes to obtaining resources and assistance, including financial, connections matter. “There are businesses and people that might not have relationships with banks prior to the crisis and are now trying to figure out how to apply and things like that," said Josef. "There have been, I think, some delays for some businesses, and maybe not others. There’s some initial stats on a big challenge for minority and female-owned businesses in this town who may not have had the same kind of relationships with banks ahead of time.”
- Pro bono legal services are a lifeline for many small business owners. “When we expanded our pro bono programs into small business several years ago, it used to be that pro bono really was either nonprofit or individuals who live at the poverty level," said Josef. "What we realized is that small businesses under a certain size had equally as a big of an issue finding lawyers to help them, as some individuals would. And in underserved communities and under resourced communities, small businesses, the success and failure of them, really impact the entire community. So it’s a really important part of our pro bono landscape.”
- Laws small businesses rely on most for aid are constantly changing. Programs like the Paycheck Protection Program have undergone a few changes since Congress initially passed the CARES Act in March. Krayniy said he's often asked how those changes impact the application process. "[A] question we get is ‘is this the same the last time we talked? Can we still get loan forgiveness under this law? Has the figure changed at all?'" said Krayniy. "A lot of the questions we get are based on this uncertainty of the legal landscape with regards to these financing options.”
Click here for more COVID-19 resources for small businesses. Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information.
The Small Biz Insider podcast is part of our digital series highlighting entrepreneurs in the greater Houston region who are making a big impact in the small business community.
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