Businesses and nonprofits in Spokane County facing financial hardship from the pandemic could soon have access to grants of up to $10,000 if they qualify for the county’s assistance program.
The grants are designated for small businesses that have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees. Non profits also are eligible for funds.
Spokane County Commissioners approved $10 million for the program and $100,000 for Greater Spokane Incorporated to administer it at the end of June. The funding is Spokane County’s portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which congress approved in March. Of the $90 million received, the county has spent close to a third on business grants, contact tracing, food assistance, PPE and marketing.
County Commissioner Al French said the grants are meant to help businesses that slipped between other programs designed to minimize the economic hit of the coronavirus.
“This isn’t designed to fix Boeing, this is designed for mom and pop (businesses),” he said.
He said some parameters of the program could change, depending on the number of applications and if any issues come up during the application process. If the program is in demand and a success, he and commissioner Josh Kerns said they would be open to using more CARES funding to expand the program.
“If demand is truly there, and is making a big difference with local businesses, I would support the increased amount of funding,” Kerns said.
When Greater Spokane Incorporated screened businesses for the Washington State Department of Commerce’s similar small business grant program, more than 1,850 in the county applied and 61 were selected.
On Monday, Greater Spokane Incorporated, which is administering the program with Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, presented a list of eligibility and use requirements that businesses and non profits must follow to receive funds. Commissioners said they supported the requirements, which will be used to screen potential recipients when the application opens. Coon said applications should open July 27 but that date is not certain yet.
Cara Coon, Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for GSI, said the organization hoped to begin dispersing grants by Labor Day weekend.
In addition to having fewer than 50 employees, all applicants must have been established prior to July 1, 2019. They must also be in good standing with the Washington State Secretary of State and the Department of Labor & Industries. They also must demonstrate they have had additional expenditures or losses due to COVID-19.
During the presentation to county commissioners, GSI contractor Cindy Wendle said the organization would also give additional consideration to minority, women, veteran and tribal-owned businesses, as well as businesses that demonstrate a plan to address economic affects to the community.
Businesses currently in bankruptcy, within the marijuana industry, or that grossed more than $10 million in revenue during the 2019 tax year will be excluded.
Businesses will be able to receive up to $10,000 from the program and sole proprietors and contractors whose income is primarily through their funding will be able to apply for up to $2,500 in funding.
Nonprofits that have an operating budget above $50,000 will be given priority for grants, as well as those that are addressing public health and economic impacts to the community due to COVID-19. Arts and economic development organizations will also be given priority as well.
Churches will be excluded from nonprofit grants, unless they have specific programs that assist the general public. Colleges, universities, charitable trusts and professional societies are also excluded. Businesses and nonprofits will not be allowed to use their funds to offer payouts to board members, owners or investors.
This story was corrected on July 14, 2020 to reflect that only businesses with less than 50 employees can apply for the grant and that the July 27 application date is still in flux.
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