The city held a lottery to select the companies, because nearly 9,000 applied, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office, underscoring the havoc the pandemic has wreaked among neighborhood businesses. The city intends to offer additional grants at a later date, a news release said Monday.
To support the small businesses during Gov. Jay Inslee’s ban on gatherings and non-essential business activities, Seattle is using federal Community Development Block Grant funds that previously had been allocated to other purposes, such as loans intended to help create affordable housing.
Also Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to ban commercial landlords from raising rents during Seattle’s coronavirus emergency for nonprofits and some businesses. Seattle already has an emergency moratorium in place for evictions of nonprofits and small businesses.
The new measure sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold applies to nonprofits and to businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have been closed because of public orders or experienced a 30% reduction in business. It also requires commercial landlords to work out payment plans with nonprofits and small businesses for rent due during and in the six months after the city’s emergency.
Only businesses with a physical establishment, five or fewer employees and an owner at or below 80% of the area’s median income were eligible for the city’s $10,000 grants, Durkan’s office said.
Tarik Abdullah, owner of A DJ and a Cook, will likely use his $10,000 grant to cover short-term operational costs and hire some helpers, he said. The South Seattle-based chef has been working 13-hour days to serve paying customers with a pickup model while also donating meals to hard-up community members, he said.
“The biggest thing is being able to provide a couple of jobs,” said Abdullah, who was working Monday morning on a lunch menu that included tandoori curry tomato soup, roasted yams with tahini and roasted brussels sprouts with zhoug aioli. “Today, I’m a one-man army.”
A list of the first 250 grantees can be viewed here. A map shows them concentrated in the University District, Belltown, Chinatown International District and Rainier Valley.
Durkan directed the city’s Office of Economic Development to focus last month on raising awareness about the grants among businesses owned by immigrants, refugees, people of color and non-English speakers, and in neighborhoods dealing with displacement and gentrification. She described those groups as historically underserved.
Eligible applicants were categorized as being from high- or low-displacement neighborhoods, and the city’s lottery was weighted toward those from high-displacement neighborhoods, the mayor’s news release said. Nearly 80% of the first 250 businesses to receive grants are owned by people of color, Durkan’s office said Monday.
Jose Perez, who owns the Villa Escondida restaurant in Belltown, said his grant would help him keep staff on payroll and boost marketing to get more takeout and delivery orders.
Pedro Gomez, the city’s small-business development director, said his team had to process a deluge of applications quickly.
“We’re doing everything we can to support our small businesses and workers during this unprecedented moment in history,” the mayor said in a statement.
When Durkan initially announced the grants last month, she said $1.5 million would be available. She and the City Council later increased the amount to $2.5 million. In addition to affordable-housing loans, the funds previously had been allocated to Human Services Department administrative expenses and to a senior-care project on Beacon Hill.
The Durkan administration said the senior-care project, instead, could be supported in 2021 or 2022, without slowing down.
Many Seattle small businesses also have applied for emergency grants and loans from the federal Small Business Administration as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act recently enacted by Congress. But that rescue program has been marred by various problems.
Inslee last week announced a similar program to provide $10,000 grants from the state for small businesses.