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Next round of small business emergency grants coming soon

Javohn Ferguson packs a take-out order in a restaurant otherwise closed because of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle. Gov. Inslee announced $10 million in grants to small businesses in industries hard-hit by COVID-19, including restaurants, hair salons, fitness studios and theaters. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

More small businesses could soon find out they’re getting a financial boost from the state, as the establishments receiving the next round of Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grants should be named this week.

The grants, which are paid out of Governor Inslee’s Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund, were first announced in March as a way to help very small businesses that are having to stay closed or are experiencing reduced revenue due to the stay-at-home orders.

Last week, the Washington State Department of Commerce announced that 501 small businesses in 20 of the state’s 39 counties have now received emergency grants from the state to help with the financial strain of the pandemic.

Penny Thomas, media relations manager with the Department of Commerce, said in an email that 10 to 15 more counties will be notified this week as to which businesses have and which have not received emergency grants.

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Development organizations in each county received applications from individual businesses, vetted and narrowed them down, and sent initial qualifiers to the Department of Commerce. Thomas said out of over 25,000 original applications from businesses, 3,000 were sent from the counties to the state level. After the Department of Commerce, the governor’s office has final review.

“Some of the smaller counties were completed first due to the lower number of applications and we elected to move forward with the awards as quickly as possible instead of waiting for all counties to be processed and ranked,” Thomas said. “We know businesses are hurting and a week or two can make a difference.”

To qualify for a grant, a business must have fewer than 10 employees, and demonstrate that it has been economically impacted by the shutdown. Thomas said the state also considers factors like diversity, equity, and the business’ ability to keep others employed.

A variety of mom-and-pop establishments, from restaurants to retail shops, salons to auto repair facilities, and gyms to wineries, have been granted aid so far.

“The profile of the businesses awarded resembles a typical main street community,” Thomas said. “The program goal is to make sure that small businesses have a better chance of surviving the crisis with the funding.”

Business proprietors can use the grant money to pay employees, stock, utilities, and rent or mortgage.

Emergency grants can be up to $10,000 for a single business. The first 501 grants represented about $3.7 million of the $10 million that will be awarded in total.

The development organizations in each county will let applicants know whether or not their businesses are receiving grants.

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