LUBBOCK, Texas — Rangel’s Mexican Food was born at a time when too many other local joints were dying.

The small, family-run restaurant opened in June 2020, greeting their first customers behind masks and plexiglass and gambling against emerging COVID cases and closures.

The family said taking that risk was all they could do, but they are still working to recoup their initial six-figure investment.

“It was either… not get paid, or open and take the risk,” Ashley Torres, who works at the restaurant with her family, said. “We had to get plexiglass and hand sanitizer and make sure everyone was wearing masks. It was definitely hard… we didn’t even break even at the end of the year. It was a big loss.”

That’s why Rangel’s joined over one hundred other owners of small businesses and nonprofits at the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce’s American Rescue Plan information session Monday.

Lubbock County has set aside $10 million to give those organizations who lost revenue to the pandemic. The tax-free grants come from the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, signed into law in March 2021. The bill sent Lubbock County more than $60 million for pandemic relief, $10 million of which the county has offered directly to local businesses citizens through an open application.

“It’s a great program, it’s free money,” said Davis Odorizzi, an analyst with Local CFO, with which the county has contracted to disburse the money. “We’re just trying to get as many people as possible to apply. It’s money that’s sitting there, it’s going to be given out anyways, so the more the better. If you own a small business or non-profit, we strongly encourage you to apply.”

Odorizzi said about 170 small businesses and about 40 nonprofit organizations have already applied, and he expects that number to grow in the next three weeks.

“Think about it – we were closed for a long time, so that’s a lot of lost revenue,” Lubbock Chamber of Commerce CEO Kay McDowell said. “It’s hard to rebound from that. It’s hard to regain those customers that might have frequented your restaurant or your retail store.”

Each entity is eligible for up to $50,000. The value of each grant is calculated based on lost revenue, PPE expenses, utility fees, and payroll costs. Any previous COVID assistance is deducted from that total.

To qualify, a small business or nonprofit must have less than 100 employees and an address inside Lubbock County. Applicants will have to provide an EIN number, but does not need a business license.

You can apply online at lubbockarpa.com. Questions are invited by email at info@lubbockarpa.com. The deadline is May 15. The county intends to begin writing checks in June.

Until then, local family businesses say Lubbock residents can continue to support them. Rangel’s Mexican Food is located at 34th and Vicksburg and is open from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They serve breakfast all day.

“If you like a good breakfast burrito, we got you,” Torres said.