Seattle has begun accepting applications from small businesses for its next round of $10,000 COVID-19 relief grants, with $4 million in grants available, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced this week.
The city’s Small Business Stabilization Fund provided 469 companies with grants in application rounds earlier this year. That didn’t come close to meeting the demand, as 9,000 applications were initially submitted.
Business owners who applied for grants previously must reapply, because the criteria for the new round are different, according to the Durkan administration.
The grants in the prior rounds were funded with federal dollars and were limited to business owners with five or fewer employees and business owners at or below 80% of the area’s median income. The grants in the next round will be funded from the city’s emergency reserves, according to a deal between Durkan and the City Council over the summer, and will be available to a somewhat wider range of businesses.
In a statement, Durkan called small businesses “the backbone of Seattle,” said too many neighborhood favorites have closed during the pandemic, and urged Congress to provide additional help. Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said the city’s grants will keep businesses open and workers employed.
Across Seattle, business owners are bracing for a tough winter. Many who received Paycheck Protection Program loans earlier this year have spent those dollars, and it’s unclear whether Congress will approve more aid before January. State leaders are discussing a revolving-loan fund for small businesses, but the details haven’t been finalized, according to the state Department of Commerce.
Some business owners say loans and grants have been critical to surviving months of diminished sales during the COVID-19 crisis. As of August, Seattle had seen 3,061 business closures since March 1, 59% of them permanent, according to Yelp survey data provided by the Downtown Seattle Association.
To qualify for the city’s new grants, businesses must have: 25 or fewer employees; annual net revenue below $2 million; no more than two locations; and been in operation for at least 12 months. Business owners who have already received grants from the city won’t be eligible for the new round. But nonprofits that do education and job-training will be eligible.
Two thirds of the grants will go to businesses that have five or fewer employees and that are located in less-wealthy neighborhoods, according to the Durkan administration. The Seattle Office of Economic Development is reaching out to prior applicants to help them reapply, said Karissa Braxton, a spokesperson with the office.
For the previous grants, downtown, the Chinatown International District and South Seattle were the neighborhoods with the most recipients. The business owners were 32% Asian, 31% white, 21% Black and 6% Hispanic (any race).
The council initially voted to spend $14.5 million on additional grants, but a Durkan veto ultimately reduced the amount to $5.5 million, including $1.5 million for outreach by community organizations and for administration.
The Office of Economic Development will host webinars about the grants on Thursday at 12 p.m. and on Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. Information about the grants and the webinars is available in multiple languages on the office’s website at: seattle.gov/office-of-economic-development. Business owners also can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail at 206-684-8090.