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Spokane Valley to spend last of CARES funding on small business grants, food, schools

Sept. 30, 2020 Updated Thu., Oct. 1, 2020 at 9:35 a.m.

Spokane Valley City Hall as seen in April of 2019. Spokane Valley City Council has now spent all of its federal pandemic aid funding on small business grants and assistance for food banks and schools.  (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Valley City Hall as seen in April of 2019. Spokane Valley City Council has now spent all of its federal pandemic aid funding on small business grants and assistance for food banks and schools. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley City Council has voted to divide the last of the city’s allocation of federal COVID-19 aid funding among small business and nonprofit grants, schools and the greater Spokane Valley’s food, clothing and diaper bank.

The city received a total of $4.35 million of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding the U.S. Treasury Department provided the state, which gave two allocations to Spokane Valley.

During the summer, the city used the first $2.9 million allocation to support rental, mortgage, internet and utility assistance programs, start a small business and nonprofit grant program and provide money for a mobile food program.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced that cities would receive a second round of CARES Act funding at the end of August. Spokane Valley was given about $1.45 million. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to use the money on business and nonprofit grants as well as assistance for schools and the food bank.

Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said his priority was to get the money to businesses and nonprofits as soon as possible so they could use it before the Nov. 30 deadline, which they must do or risk losing the funding.

“If we don’t use it, it will go back to the state or to another community,” he said.

The City Council voted to boost the small business and nonprofit grant program that the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce is administering on the city’s behalf and create a second round of grants for which larger businesses can apply.

The council voted to spend close to $600,000 to provide funding for small business applicants that were eligible but weren’t selected in the first lottery for grants and an additional $600,000 for a second round of grants for larger businesses.

Lance Beck, president and CEO of Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, said 29 nonprofits and 123 businesses will receive funding from the first round. He said 80 qualified that were not initially selected, but the new influx of funding should cover grants for those businesses.

Beck said the application period for the second grant round will be Oct. 12-21.

The council also loosened the requirements for the second round of awards, not limiting nonprofits to a certain size and allowing businesses with up to 49 employees to apply. The previous small business grant program was available only to businesses with 18 or fewer employees.

City Councilwoman Pam Haley said allowing larger businesses and nonprofits to apply would likely dramatically increase the number that are eligible and provide a greater benefit to the community.

Haley, who owns a daycare business downtown that focuses on low-income families, said she’s also seen increased issues with mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence and hopes that nonprofits that specialize in those areas apply.

“I’m concerned about the isolation and the effect on people’s mental health,” she said.

Council member Tim Hattenburg echoed those concerns, saying he had heard of many in the Spokane Valley community who were house-bound and had struggled with mental health issus.

The City Council also voted to award an additional $300,000 to Spokane Valley Partners.

Angie Kelleher, director of development and communications at the food bank, said about two-thirds of the funding would be used to purchase food and the rest would be used to purchase items the agency often obtains through drives, such as coats, hats, gloves, sleeping bags, blankets and diapers.

She said the need for food has increased during the pandemic and that events Spokane Valley Partners has counted on in the past for donated coats and items have been canceled.

The Spokane Valley City Council also allocated about $280,000 for schools to pay for increased expenses caused by COVID-19.

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