Building on the increased interest and need for the City of Sequim’s COVID-19 Small Business Rapid Relief Program, city councilors chose to add up to another $60,000 for the fund to continue helping during the pandemic.
They originally agreed in April to use $250,000 from the city’s Rainy Day Fund to help Sequim businesses with less than 50 employees to be vetted through an application process by officials from the city and Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.
As of Monday, June 29, nearly $200,000 of the fund was designated for local businesses, with as much as $15,000 going to business owners in need of support.
On June 22, councilors unanimously agreed to the fund’s extension with Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell encouraging fellow councilors to “keep the chain going.”
Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said Clallam County commissioners are considering $200,000 for business relief using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Ferrell, however, said he felt their process will be slowed in supporting businesses in need now.
“We have to be sensitive about getting these things done … even if (businesses are) open now and getting a few customers they’re still hurting,” he said.
Councilor Brandon Janisse agreed, saying, “I think we need to make sure we’re taking care of our town.”
Those looking to apply and/or seek guidance on the grants can visit sequimchamber.com/ssbrf.
Anji Scalf, the chamber’s executive director, said the chamber encourages applicants to work with a Small Business Advisor coordinated through the Clallam Economic Development Council at chooseclallamfirst.com/contact-an-advisor.
The latest grants chosen by city and chamber officials included: Chezak at Elements, $3,000; Heart and Passion Films, $3,000; Sergio’s Family Mexican Restaurant, $5,000; Jolie Salon, $5,000, and DentureCare Inc., $8,000.
Scalf said a few unnamed applicants didn’t meet some of the criteria for the city, so they’ll be granted a smaller amount from the chamber’s parallel Small Business Relief Fund.
However, donations for the fund remain ongoing.
Business owners that accept a city/chamber grant will enter into a contract to ensure funds are being used correctly with help from a small business advisor.
Scalf said many businesses are “just now determining what the impact of Covid has been and the cost of getting back to business.”
One grant recipient, Lien Trinh, owner and denturist at DentureCare Inc., 124 W. Spruce St., said she reopened on May 26 after being closed for more than two months.
“I was depressed for a few weeks,” she said. “There was unknown pain because everyday I was waiting to see when we could reopen.”
Trinh has owned DentureCare since 2015 and said the grant will help make up some of the lost revenue for salaries of two staffers and herself.
“Customers have been eager,” she said. “They kept calling and checking. They can’t wait to get back in because they can’t eat or they’re in pain.”
Since reopening, Trinh said they’ve increased precautions with taking temperatures, wearing masks (staff and customers), and frequent spot cleaning.
“I’m kind of worried about more cases, but I’m taking it one day at a time,” she said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to shut down again, but if it has to be, it has to be.”
Aaron Staeben, an occupational therapist and owner of Peak Performance Therapy Center, 519 Eureka Way, said the city grant “is a huge deal” to help with his operating costs.
“The health industry for the next few months is going to be pretty dismal,” he said.
With insurers paying businesses like his now after seeing clients in recent months, he’s concerned about payments coming this summer after they saw a smaller number of clients during COVID-19-related closures.
Staeben said his essential business remained open and his 18 employees — including himself — remained on the job.
“Just knowing that we have a little bit more cushion, it’s a good chunk of money … it’s going to help us survive the summer,” he said.
His customers have been happy they’ve been open, he said, because their pain doesn’t go away either.
“Every protective thing I’ve put in place, there’s been little push back,” Staeben said.
“I think everyone values this facility. Our patients are really behind us.”
For more information on the COVID-19 Small Business Rapid Relief Program, call the city at 360-683-4139, or visit the chamber’s site at sequimchamber.com/ssbrf.
Donations to 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 email@example.com or 360-683-6197.