The city of Seattle will give small businesses nearly $2 million in grants to repair damaged storefronts, helping business owners absorb the cost of broken windows and doors.
To help local businesses with the burden of replacing damaged facades, city officials announced Tuesday that nearly $2 million in federal funds will be allocated in $2,000 increments to help businesses that have had their storefronts damaged since the beginning of 2021.
Noting the strain of the pandemic and crime rates on local businesses, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, Director of the Office of Economic Development Markham McIntyre, and Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen announced the grant program which will open later this month.
Nelson, whose experience as the owner of Fremont Brewing has informed many of her policy priorities in her first year on council, said she supported the grants as a way of improving businesses and neighborhoods as a whole.
“It goes beyond simply helping the individual business, because when you when you see a bunch of storefronts that are boarded up in a neighborhood, it brings down the character, the morale,” Nelson said. “And so what we’re really talking about today is revitalization. It’s about bringing our city back.”
Moe Khan, who operates Cedars Restaurant, where the news conference was held, said that the business, owned by his father, had to replace a glass door earlier this year after it was broken, noting that the damage cost time and money, which are limited for small business owners.
“It’s hard to run a small business. It’s like another day, another challenge,” Kahn said after the announcement. He said he had to get a restaurant employee to install plywood over the door as a temporary fix because contractors are backed up. He said the final cost was well over $2,000.
“The city helping businesses fix these things helps businesses stay open,” he added.
Nelson acknowledged the news of four University of Washington students who were injured in a shooting over the weekend outside of a bar about a block away, noting that “property crime does not compare to the horrors” that took place.
“But all things along the whole spectrum of the public safety crisis that the city is experiencing right now — all of that demands action; demands that we do something and some things are easier to address than others,” Nelson said.
Harrell also noted that fixing broken windows will not solve public safety, but that both crime intervention and business revitalization are “part and parcel” to his One Seattle mission.
The city tested the program on a smaller scale early this year after businesses called for help, according to Nelson. To test the program, the city matched a $20,000 fund from The U District Partnership, a business improvement group in the University District, and provided more than 30 businesses with smaller grants to make similar repairs after a rash of damage to facades, according to Don Blakeney, executive director of the UDP.
Applications will open Oct. 18, and will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are gone. Small businesses will be defined as businesses with less than $7 million in revenue and fewer than 50 employees. To support underserved small businesses, the Office of Economic Development says it will prioritize supporting businesses from the following communities:
- Small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color
- Woman-owned small businesses
- Small businesses located in a highly distressed census tract with a minimum of 30% poverty or not exceeding 60% median income, which meet the definition of “low-income communities” set by the federal Small Business Administration.
A map developed by OED and other city departments to determine which census tracts have been most impacted by the pandemic — based on race and social equity, displacement risk, number of COVID cases per capita, and the number/change in number of low wage jobs — will also be used to assess need.