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Dallas small business, rent and mortgage relief programs overwhelmed by initial applications; city website crashes

Eligible households will be able to get up to $1,500 in rent or mortgage assistance for a maximum of three months if selected.

Updated May 5 to reflect applications for the mortgage and rental assistance program have been closed.

Applications for two new COVID-19 relief programs from the city of Dallas launched Monday morning and were met with such high demand that the city's website crashed.

"Due to high volume, the online application is experiencing slowness. We are working to get this resolved as quickly as possible. Please try back shortly," a message posted to the website said. 

By 1:30 p.m., the issue had been resolved, a message displayed on the city's homepage said. 

The applications were for either the mortgage and rental assistance program the city set up for residents or for a piece of the city's small business continuity fund for business owners. 

Within the first 15 minutes, more than 930 people had applied for the mortgage and rental assistance program, with 1,560 applicants by 10 a.m., according to officials. 

By 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, nearly 10,000 people had applied for assistance with their rent or mortgage and the city had closed its applications.

The mortgage and rent assistance program had nearly $14 million available for city residents who have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to COVID-19. 

Part of the funds, a little more than $6 million, were recently appropriated several weeks ago by the Dallas City Council. 

Eligible households will be able to get up to $1,500 for a maximum of three months towards their rent or mortgage and utilities. 

City officials say to expect a four-week lag between filing an application and seeing a bill paid. 

RELATED: Need help in North Texas because of COVID-19? Here are the numbers to call

Relief is still available, though, to small business owners in the form of grants and loans from the city. The Office of Economic Development in Dallas is making $5 million available to small businesses affected by the pandemic. 

Dallas businesses will be able to apply for up to $10,000 in grants and up to $50,000 in low-cost loans if they can prove they were in operation for at least six months before the pandemic hit Dallas and saw at least a 25% reduction in revenue due to COVID-19. 

$2.5 million will be available for the grants and $2.5 million for the loans. Businesses will be selected using a lottery system. 

Applicants also must either be low- to moderate-income microbusiness owners or businesses where a majority of the employees were low- to moderate-income workers. 

The application for businesses also opened Monday at 9 a.m., with grants and loans beginning in June. Applications must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. on May 11.

RELATED: Apply here for a loan or grant

Eric Anthony Johnson, Dallas' chief of economic development and neighborhood services, spoke about the programs Sunday.

"This is unprecedented territory, uncharted territory," Johnson said. "In the history of America, we have not faced anything like this. What we do know is that the impact on individuals, whether they are renters, mortgage holders, small business owners, they are taking a big hit.

"What we do know...is that you cannot have economic recovery without housing stability."

City officials said they expected there would be high demand for these programs. 

“We want to send a message to every business owner in Dallas that we are concerned and we will put our money where our mouth is,” said Dallas Council Member Casey Thomas.

Business owners with questions can email SBCF@DallasCityHall.com or call (469) 749-6500 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

WFAA digital producer Jake Harris contributed to this report.

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