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State sends relief to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

by Staff report
| May 24, 2021 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Department of Commerce said Thursday it has awarded $234 million in the fourth round of Working Washington relief and recovery grants.

The money goes to 11,697 small businesses impacted by the pandemic, according to the department. More than 20% of the grant recipients indicated they will use the money to assist in reopening.

“While we are through the worst of the pandemic, small businesses have been hit hard, especially in rural and ethnic communities, and in several industries such as hospitality and entertainment,” said Lisa Brown, director of the department, in a press release. “We continue to focus our grant programs on sectors most disproportionately impacted or businesses most likely to be left out of federal aid programs, hoping to minimize the risk of a ‘K-shaped recovery’ where some succeed more easily while others are left behind.”

More than 40% of businesses awarded funding in this round are in the hospitality industry – accommodation and food services – and 18% are service businesses, according to the department.

Round 4 grant amounts range from $12,000 to $30,000. Grants can be used only to cover expenses or costs incurred due to COVID-19 and that were necessary to continue business operations.

About 60% of the grants have been processed and businesses have received funds. Grant award notices and payments are being processed by the department’s contractors, Submittable and Payoneer. Grantees with questions may find answers at https://commercegrants.com/grant-4/award-recipient-faqs.

Working Washington grant funds were allocated by the Legislature from the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan dollars. To date, the commerce department says it has administered more than $526 million in relief grants to small businesses and nonprofits in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

In addition, the department partnered with the Washington State Department of Agriculture for $15 million grants to small businesses that work in shellfish or craft beverage production, agritourism and farmers markets.

The Department of Agriculture is reviewing applications now and estimates approximately 900 small businesses across the state will receive grants. More information is available at https://agr.wa.gov/services/grant-opportunities/covid-grants.

The commerce department expects in the coming weeks to launch the Small Business Flex Fund, a new loan fund to aid small business reopening and recovery. And, legislators approved a fifth round of $50 million for emergency small-business assistance grants in the new state budget.

The commerce department says it will continue the small business resiliency network, which was created as a pilot during the pandemic to help connect small businesses with in-language, culturally competent technical assistance and business development services.