Additional relief for Aberdeen small businesses suffering through COVID-related state-mandated shutdowns and restrictions is a step closer after the city’s ad hoc committee on COVID-19 relief proposed using up to $100,000 for another round of small business grants — this one administered by the city, with city funds.
“The committee wanted to find ways to continue to help our small businesses, especially with the new round of closures during this pandemic,” said city Finance Committee chairwoman Deborah Ross. “Because there was reduced spending in the general fund we asked the mayor to set aside up to $100,000 of city money to do another round of grants.”
Mayor Pete Schave created the ad hoc committee in August to review the city’s first round of grants from its $759,600 federal CARES Act allocation for COVID related expenses. The City Council approved setting aside $200,000 of that money for small business grants.
That round of applications required state Department of Commerce approval for disbursement of the funds and carried with it a list of restrictions that left some small Aberdeen businesses out of the running. Because of the restrictions, the city was able to award only about $116,000 in grants, said Ross.
“We are hoping to make this application a little less restrictive and be able to help our struggling small businesses,” said Ross, also a member of the ad hoc committee. “The committee will continue to work toward this goal as soon as possible,” with the guidance of the City Council.
The plan now is to target small businesses with 10 or fewer full time employees, said Ross.
“So many small businesses have been greatly impacted this year,” said Ward 3 Councilwoman Kati Kachman, including restaurants forced to close dining areas and switch to take-out only, and gyms, theaters and bowling alleys that are now in their second state-mandated shutdowns.
“The small business community is the lifeblood of Aberdeen,” Kachman, who is also a member of the ad hoc committee, continued. “The CARES Act grants didn’t fit for all small business to qualify, so I hope we can have a grant funded by the City of Aberdeen.”
“There has been a lot of work to get this (proposal) to where it is right now,” said Ward 2 Councilman and ad hoc committee member Nathan Kennedy. “We have been literally pulling our hair out trying to find ways (to support local businesses). I feel this is very important and, hopefully, we will support this and get everybody some help.”
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the recommendation was unanimously approved. The ad hoc committee will now determine requirements and set an application period. Check with the city’s website, aberdeenwa.gov, for updates.
As for the remainder of the CARES Act money allocated to the city, it was used to help extend the city’s homeless tent camp next to City Hall, for various expenses incurred by the city to operate amid the pandemic, and to help offset public safety wages related to COVID-19.