OLYMPIA – Washington will offer grants to small businesses with as many as 10 employees to help them “weather the storm” of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.
The Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grants, to help with rent or other expenses, will be limited to $10,000 for a business, and the total, which comes from the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund, is currently limited to $5 million at this point.
The money will be divided among different regions of the state, Commerce Secretary Lisa Brown said, but there won’t be enough for every business that wants one.
The applications, available online, ask each company to describe the effect of the health crisis on its business and how the money would be used to help. The applications will be sent to a chamber of commerce or business organization in each county, Brown said. In Spokane County, they will be handled by Greater Spokane Incorporated.
The total amount in the fund and the $10,000 limit on a grant may seem small to some people, Inslee said, but to businesses struggling to make ends meet in difficult economic times, “it won’t be small to them.”
The money can be used for operational expenses including rent, supplies, inventory or utility bills, as well as consulting, marketing or training. It can’t be used for payroll, travel, office equipment or computer software.
The grant program was announced at a news conference during which Inslee also said the state was setting up a separate program to help some businesses that are struggling to access the assistance that’s available from state and federal governments.
The business resiliency assistance program will be a partnership of the commerce department and groups that serve economically disadvantaged communities. Among the services will be translation to help some businesses operated by immigrants have better access to assistance programs that already exist.
Earlier in the day, Inslee and nonprofits in the state started a fund to help Washington food banks that are seeing supplies drop and demand increase dramatically.
The Legislature set aside $200 million in emergency funding to fight the COVID-19 epidemic before it adjourned less than a month ago. Inslee said $120 million of that has been used.
The state will probably need a special session this year, “given the extent of the economic damage we have suffered,” Inslee said. “We have not made a decision. Stay tuned.”
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