The city of Spokane will allow businesses struggling to pay their utility bills to defer payment for up to three months.
As social-distancing mandates make conducting business difficult or impossible for many, the city announced Tuesday it would grant businesses a deferral of between one and three months, as long as they promise to pay their past bills over the course of the next six months to a year.
It was announced as city leaders begin to shift their focus from immediate measures to prevent businesses and residents from suffering to the long, painful recovery that awaits as restrictions are eventually lifted.
“We are hopeful that this new program will provide some relief to businesses as they prepare for the future,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said in a statement. “Our work to help businesses in the City is designed to fill gaps that national and state programs have missed. Our City utility charges fall into one of those gaps.”
The announcement came as another utility-focused initiative, announced last month, continued to make progress.
The city of Spokane and Avista have, through a joint effort, raised more than $100,000 to offer emergency assistance to Spokane residents and businesses struggling to pay their utility bills. The campaign benefits Project Share, an Avista-led program, and the city’s UShare program, both of which provide emergency assistance to utility customers.
For every dollar donated to the campaign, the city and Avista each contribute one dollar, up to $50,000. As of Tuesday, 450 donors had contributed a total of $40,624. With the match from Avista and the city, the total raised thus far is $121,872.
Both the city and Avista have already temporarily suspended shutoffs for nonpayment of utility bills.
The deferral program for businesses can be used immediately, and the city has established an online application form. The terms of the agreement will be specific to each business that applies.
“Spokane community members have been fantastic in limiting confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the City is committed to making it easier for all businesses to restart our economy,” City Council President Breean Beggs said in a statement.
Donations to the utility assistance program for businesses and residents can be made at spokaneutilityhelp.org.
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