Many Texans have tried to move on from the devastating winter storm that hit the state back in February of this year, but for businesses that were left out in the cold when the Texas power grid failed, another looming winter season signals the need for serious preparation.
Yelp, the controversial online review platform that makes everyone with an account or an agenda a critic no matter the circumstance, including businesses suffering during COVID-19, is looking to make those preparations easier for 10 small businesses in Austin and San Antonio with its new “Deck The Halls” winterization fund. The fund, totaling at $100,000, will be divvied up equally among 10 businesses, which can be nominated on the official website now through December 17 — a Hunger Games-style approach that’s become familiar for restaurants seeking aid throughout the pandemic.
“Deck The Halls” is a follow-up to a previous program launched by Yelp in August that encouraged residents in the state of Texas to weatherize their homes while also supplying $10,000 grants to five local businesses. One of those businesses, Casita Tex Mex in Dallas, is using funds from that grant to help maintain operations following a fire last December.
“It’s actually helped us in three different ways: remodeling, payroll, and the sustainability of our food truck,” Casita owner Norma Valles told Eater.
Once all the nominations are in, Yelp will select 10 businesses at random to receive awards of $10,000 to assist in any necessary maintenance or updates, including pipe insulation, weatherstripping, water heater repairs, or backup generators.
While $10,000 will help the few businesses that qualify to hunker down for the winter, Yelp’s weatherization fund and other independent funds like this point to a larger issue: The governmental structures and safety nets meant to ensure the wellbeing of residents and businesses are at risk of failing once again.
Just last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott guaranteed to FOX 7 Austin that “the lights will stay on” as a result of his signing a number of laws meant to fortify the Texas power grid, which failed in 2021 after a series of snow and ice storms caused electricity generation failure. The laws in question are meant to regulate and improve upon the energy systems Texas already has in place, but critics are wary of loopholes and weak language that give big players, including natural gas providers, too much slack.
Restaurants and grocery stores were harshly impacted by the storms and subsequent fallout, as power outages affected refrigeration and iced out roads kept shipments at bay for days. This inevitably led to a financial crisis for food-related businesses and a food crisis amongst Texas residents in major cities, who were left largely to fend for themselves and rely upon mutual aid.
After more than 200 people died as a result of the February 2021 freeze, another crisis seems to hang in the balance. While the lights might stay on for the 10 future winners of Yelp’s “Deck The Halls” fund, for the rest of Texas, that remains to be seen.