The Spokane Valley City Council may fund mortgage and utility assistance or grants for small businesses using federal COVID-19 relief funding.
The council will debate on Tuesday how to spend $2.9 million made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act approved by Congress in March.
Governments overseeing large population centers of 500,000 or more, such as Spokane County, received payments directly from the federal government; governments for smaller entities, such as Spokane, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, received CARES Act funding managed by the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Spokane Valley has $2,901,600 to spend, the city of Spokane has $6.6 million, and Spokane County received $90 million. Once Spokane Valley agrees to a contract with the Department of Commerce, officials will decide how and when to spend the city’s share. The Department of Commerce will reimburse up to $2.9 million in expenses if they are COVID-19 related and were not previously budgeted. The money must be spent before Oct. 31.
Councilwoman Linda Thompson said she would prefer to spend some of the CARES funding as soon as possible, because many businesses and families in Spokane Valley are struggling.
“My sense is that things are critical right now,” she said. “We don’t have to spend all the money right now, but I would like two or three things to go forward.”
Thompson said her biggest priorities are utility assistance and grants for small businesses.
Spokane County commissioners already spent $10.1 million of the county’s CARES funding on small business grants. Thompson said if Spokane Valley invested a portion of Spokane Valley’s CARES funding on helping ailing businesses, they may be able to fill in some gaps, or make sure a larger percentage of Spokane Valley businesses receive some assistance.
Councilmen Tim Hattenburg said he also is interested in grants for small businesses, hoping to help out businesses that fell through the gaps in federal funding. But he also hopes to provide aid for rental assistance and housing as well.
Hattenburg said he would like the city to consider contracting with one of the nonprofits that already has a rental assistance program in Spokane Valley, such as Spokane Valley Partners, to set up a program to help people catch up.
Councilman Rod Higgins said rental assistance also was his biggest priority, saying it could prevent an increase in homelessness. Higgins said he also is interested in other programs, such as support for businesses and utilities, but said the city may need to focus on keeping people in their homes until jobs return.
“What we’re doing right now is buying time until the economy gets back on its feet,” he said.
Higgins said he also wants to spend more time making sure the City Council studies the rules of the CARES funds to make sure any projects they support will be reimbursed.
In addition to potentially supporting nonprofits that address economic impacts of COVID-19, the city also could use CARES fund to reimburse additional expenses it already has incurred, or could incur due to COVID-19.
The city of Spokane Valley already has spent about $39,000 on public health expenses, which included purchasing personal protective equipment for city facilities and covering grants to Spokane Valley Partners and Meals on Wheels.
According to City Council agenda documents, the city staff anticipates Spokane Valley could spend another $181,000 on additional public health or compliance expenses.
Spokane Valley City Council members will discuss CARES Act funding at their 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday. Government meetings still are closed for in-person attendance, but can be streamed online or watched on cable channel 14.
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