Clallam County to disperse more COVID-19 relief funds

Ferry, businesses, child care among recipients of more COVID-19 relief funds

Clallam County will deploy an additional $1.86 million in coronavirus relief funds, including $668,000 to small businesses and $500,000 to the idle Black Ball Ferry Line.

The three commissioners on Oct. 5 directed staff to prepare contracts for 11 recipients of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.

The federal money must be spent by Nov. 30, county Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane said.

Clallam County previously dispersed $4.18 million in CARES Act funding for public health, business support, rental and utility assistance, support for the homeless population, child care and food security.

Six working groups were formed around each of the priorities to make recommendations for CARES Act spending.

“I continue to be very proud of the way that our county is prioritizing and deploying these dollars,” said Commissioner Mark Ozias, board chairman, in the Oct. 5 work session.

Commissioners Randy Johnson, Bill Peach and Ozias agreed in principle to the following expenditures:

• $680,000 to the Clallam County Economic Development Council (EDC) for its Small Business Lifeboat grant program.

The EDC received $350,000 in CARES Act funding for the small business program in July.

• $500,000 to Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the MV Coho ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria. The ferry has been out of service because of a border closure since March 29.

“We are extremely grateful to our county commissioners for their decision to provide support to Black Ball,” said Ryan Malane, Black Ball vice president of marketing, on Oct. 6.

Malane said the grant would have an “enormous impact” on the company’s ability to resume ferry service when discretionary travel is again allowed between the U.S. and Canada.

“Along with the company’s ongoing commitment, it will also allow us to continue providing health care premium support to our employees and help to assure we can retain our highly qualified local workforce,” Malane added.

• $200,000 to support Angeles Composite Technologies Inc. (ACTI), a Port Angeles aerospace manufacturer.

Like the Black Ball grant, the money will be funneled through the EDC.

• $165,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula for child care support.

• $89,000 for the city of Port Angeles’ rental and utility assistance programs.

• $37,000 for nonprofit water districts for utility assistance.

• $26,100 to the Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund for food security.

• $50,000 to the Port Angeles Food Bank.

• $30,000 to the Forks Community Food Bank.

• $53,000 to the Sequim Food Bank.

• $30,000 to the New Hope Food Bank in Clallam Bay.

“It sounds like we’ve got a couple of additional details to work out, but I think we’re circling in pretty close on these final allocations here,” Ozias said in the virtual work session.

The $165,000 in child care support includes $70,000 for unidentified organizations, Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said.

“There are still gaps in the county where there is no child care really being provided, especially on the West End, and a little bit on the East End,” said Bush, who has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs Executive Director Mary Budke on the child care subcommittee.

The city of Port Angeles had provided $298,000 in utility assistance to 1,672 customers as of last week, City Manager Nathan West said.

“In addition, we’ve done over $19,000 in mortgage assistance and $66,000 in rental assistance,” West said. “The need is absolutely there at the city.”

Clea Rome, Clallam County’s Washington State University Extension director, said local food banks had seen a “really big uptick” in demand during the pandemic.

EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer said local businesses impacted by Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home orders had requested a combined $4.8 million in assistance.

“Over the weekend, it just blew up with businesses that are saying they have a need,” said McAleer, who is also a Port of Port Angeles commissioner.

John Nutter, Port of Port Angeles deputy executive director, said the port had been in constant communication with Black Ball officials.

“I think all of us are on the phone with legislators of all varieties all the time on that subject,” Commissioner Johnson said of Black Ball.

ACTI, which operates in a port-owned facility near William R. Fairchild International Airport, was in a similar financial hardship due to the pandemic, Nutter said.

Malane acknowledged the work of U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, in passing the CARES Act.

“The larger community has made an enormous impact with their overwhelming support for Black Ball and its importance to the community, including the Port of Port Angeles, the city of Port Angeles, the state, our chambers of commerce, EDC, and PABA (Port Angeles Business Association) to name just a few,” Malane said in a email.

“We understand the importance of preserving ferry service for the local business community, as well as the personal and family connections so many Clallam (County) residents have with Victoria.

“We are doing everything in our power to restore service as soon as possible; however, much of that largely remains outside of our control,” Malane added.

“I don’t think anyone could have anticipated a border closure as long as this. It has never happened before.”

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