Thousands of area small businesses can now better safeguard their employees and customers with free personal protective equipment provided by Spokane County and Greater Spokane Incorporated.
The OPENTogether drive-thru event launched Monday at the Spokane County Interstate Fairgrounds and has provided more than 2,000 businesses and organizations with 49 employees or fewer with hand sanitizer from Dry Fly Distilling, disinfecting cleaner, gloves, disposable and cloth face masks, thermometers and other gear.
The program, which has the capacity to supply more than 16,000 small businesses, will help address a PPE shortage that business owners have encountered since COVID-19 took hold in the state in mid-March, GSI spokeswoman Cara Coon said.
The turnout of businesses at the event was evident Tuesday morning as cars lined up bumper-to-bumper in the fairgrounds parking lot at 404 N. Havana St.
Spokane Valley-based Affordable Lock Express owner Danny Brownson was in the line of vehicles, patiently waiting to obtain PPE from volunteers.
“I like it because they are helping keep businesses open,” Brownson said, referring to the event. “It’s nice to have this PPE.”
Licensed marriage and family therapist Jeffrey Jarrett picked up a supply of PPE for his office, Marriage and Family Therapy Spokane.
“It helps to have extra supplies for when my clients come in,” he said.
Spokane County Commissioners allocated $2 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding to purchase PPE for small businesses, nonprofits, county employees and courthouse visitors to aid in reopening the community.
If the need for PPE persists in the business community, the county and GSI may consider another distribution at the end of July, Coon said.
The free PPE event comes as Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide mandate last week that requires residents to wear face masks while in public places and in outdoor settings when social distancing can’t be maintained.
Small businesses have been among the hardest hit by coronavirus-related closures. The event aims to make available supplies for small businesses to reduce barriers to reopening and continue operating, GSI’s CEO Alisha Benson said.
“It allows us to provide businesses with the materials they need to continue to deliver goods and services to the market,” she said.
GSI is looking for additional volunteers to assist with the drive-thru event, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thursday .
Businesses are required to register for PPE, either at greaterspokane.org or by filling out a form at the fairgrounds.
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