Starting Monday, many small businesses in Washington that have been financially hurt by COVID-19 restrictions can apply for grants of up to $25,000 from the state Department of Commerce.
The grants are part of a $240 million, fourth round of small-business relief through the state's Working Washington program. The funds are aimed at helping small, brick-and-mortar businesses cover costs such as rent, as well as pandemic-related expenses such as extra sanitation and personal protective equipment.
The grants are available to businesses that operate from a physical location other than a residence and which had 2019 revenue between $25,000 and $5 million. According to the department, these "mainstreet businesses," which often help anchor commercial cores and shopping districts, were often required to close or significantly reduce operations due to public-health restrictions.
"That's the shop you pass or you used to pass every day, when you drove to work or you use to grab lunch or coffee at, or you used to drop off your dry cleaning," said Lisa Brown, director of the state Department of Commerce, which is administering the grants.
The $240 million in funding is nearly double the amount from the three previous rounds combined, and the $25,000 maximum grant size is 25% more than the previous maximum.
The new round also is designed to distribute funds equitably statewide and to include historically underserved populations — among them, businesses in rural or low-income areas and those run by minorities, veterans, women and LGBTQ+ community members.
The department website offers grant applications in 16 languages, and support is available from the department and partner community organizations in 40 languages.
Officials encouraged any eligible "brick and mortar businesses that were required to close or significantly reduce operations due to public-health and safety measures to apply," according to the department website.
Businesses that were turned down in previous rounds can reapply in the fourth round, as can those that received funds in earlier rounds — although any earlier awards may reduce any current award.
The funds come from the roughly $10.6 billion that Washington state will receive under the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan Act that was signed last month by President Joe Biden.
The exclusion of businesses with annual revenue below $25,000 or with no fixed commercial location reflects the fourth round's focus on companies with "hard costs," such as rent, that likely "faced the most significant challenges to paying those hard costs due to mandated closures," the commerce department's website states.
That focus on brick-and-mortar businesses is also aimed at helping commercial landlords, many of which have offered discounts to tenants during the pandemic.
Many of the small businesses that aren't eligible for this latest round were eligible for prior rounds, and also may be eligible for future grant rounds, Brown said.
State lawmakers are debating another round of grants in the legislative budget, Brown said.
The commerce department is also exploring a recovery-loan fund that would provide businesses with low-interest loans of up to $100,000, Brown said.