Sequim City Councilors look to support the city’s struggling businesses with a $250,000 COVID-19 Small Business Rapid Relief Program.
They’re partnering with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce to accept and vet applications allowing businesses in city limits to apply for up to $15,000.
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said city councilors want Sequim’s Main Street to “be intact for the return to normalcy.”
“We are designing the process to focus on those companies with no sustainable income during this emergency,” he said.
“We also want this process of evaluation, followed by receipt of funds, to happen at high velocity that is not typical of government programs.”
Small businesses (less than 50 employees) in city limits holding a Sequim business license as of March 1, 2020, and in operation for at least a year can apply through Friday, May 15.
Complete guidelines and applications are on the Chamber of Commerce’s website at www.sequimchamber.com. Contact Anji Scalf, the chamber’s executive director, for more information at email@example.com or call 360-683-6197.
Once an application is filed, the Chamber’s executive committee and Ferrell will review the application with a decision made by May 29.
City staff said the grant program is intended to provide funding to support the brick-and-mortar costs associated with running a small business.
Priority is given to businesses prohibited from operating during Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, those registered with the Small Business Development Council, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, SCORE and/or other approved business advisors, and those with established business plans.
City staff said program operational needs, direct services, and/or capital or equipment expenditures are eligible for funding but not payroll or other employee-associated costs, because of other available funding sources.
The city’s relief fund runs parallel to the Chamber’s Small Business Relief Fund with some differentiating criteria, such as those in and outside city limits.
Scalf said the chamber’s executive committee will review both funds and for those that don’t qualify for the city’s they’ll be reviewed for the chamber’s fund if they’re in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
As of Tuesday, there were almost 20 applications for the city’s new fund.
Of those, most have an address on Washington Street, Scalf said.
“It’s definitely about saving Main Street,” she said.
Businesses applying are not expected to apply twice, she said, and the chamber’s relief fund is supported by donations from community members.
“It’s building right up,” Scalf said.
Requests of the chamber can be made for up to $2,500 with larger grants considered on a case-by-case basis, she said. Businesses do not need to belong to the chamber to apply to the city or chamber’s relief funds.
Donations for the chamber’s fund can be mailed to Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, ATTN: Sequim Small Business Relief Fund, P.O Box 907, Sequim WA 98382.
With question about making a donation, contact the chamber’s financial administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-683-6197
Chamber staff said they are working on creating a foundation to make donations tax deductible.
City councilors agreed 4-1 on April 27, with Troy Tenneson opposed, to starting the fund using Rainy Day Funds started in 2018.
Ferrell said he couldn’t think of a better use of Rainy Day Funds.
Mayor William Armacost echoed Ferrell’s urgency for supporting small businesses sooner, saying the 2019 novel coronavirus is a big hit to the economy.
“It’s going to make a huge difference to those people who are teetering … this is the time we need to stand up and be that helping hand. Not a hand out, but a helping hand,” he said.
Tenneson said he understood wanting to help but felt it wouldn’t be fair to give funds away now if the city sees a further hit later on. He said it’s a poor decision, particularly with City Manager Charlie Bush analyzing potential ways to save costs.
“We’re already trying to find ways to keep our own city solvent and not furlough or let employees go later this year,” Tenneson said.
“We’re waiting for this punch and we’ll know by this summer. I think right now in April choosing to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars with a modest Rainy Day Fund is a poor idea.”
He encouraged councilors to wait a month-and-a-half.
Ferrell said he couldn’t think of a better reason than an earthquake to use Rainy Day Funds during a pandemic.
Bush said the city has about $1.8 million in its Rainy Day Fund and that the city council could revisit providing more funds later if needed.
For more information about the Sequim City Council, 152 W. Cedar St., call 360-683-4139 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.