City awards initial round of business grants for Covid losses

Nine Aberdeen businesses will receive $46,313 of the $200,000 in small business grants pledged by the city from its share of more than $500,000 in federal CARES Act money to help offset COVID-19-related losses.

This first round of funding was targeted at businesses that had received no other outside relief.

A total of 44 businesses applied for grants, which could reach a maximum of $10,000 each. City staff reviewed the applications and presented a list of 13 who had not received any other COVID-19-related aid. Those 13 were reviewed by the city’s Good Neighbors Revolving Fund Committee, and its four members recommended the city approve those 13 for funding totaling $77,432.

The City Council approved the following businesses at its meeting Wednesday:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, $1,174

Aberdeen Elks, $10,000

Heron Street Attic, $467

Rick’s Simpson Avenue Saloon, $10,000

Rock Construction, $10,000

Spargo’s, $3,070

The Shirthouse, $4,513

Tressa’s Salon, $1,534

Aberdeen VFW, $5,556

Prior to the vote, the council’s Finance Committee Chairwoman, Deborah Ross, suggested an amendment to trim four from the list of 13 as they were not current with their business improvement fund payments. The business improvement fund is an annually-assessed tax paid by businesses within the district to pay for parking enforcement, funding additional law enforcement in the downtown core. Those businesses were the D&R Theater, D&R Events Center, the Grand Heron Gift Shop and Amore Italian Restaurant. That amendment was approved unanimously, and the reduced list was approved. Ross said those four businesses would be returned to the pool for the second round of funding consideration.

The council had pledged after the city received more than $500,000 in CARES Act funding to use $200,000 for small business grants, with the first round going to those who received no outside funding. The 44 businesses who applied initially were seeking grants totaling just under $300,000.

“Basically, the original application was put out for those who received no other funding for COVID, so based on the 44 applications received there were 13 that didn’t so we moved them forward,” said Ross. “There will be a second round, and during that round they all will be reconsidered, so this is just the very beginning, there’s more to come.”

The Good Neighbors Revolving Fund Committee is comprised of Bank of the Pacific Senior Vice President Tony Enzler, Tom Quigg of Windermere Real Estate, Aberdeen Main Street Executive Director Wil Russoul, and Steam Donkey Brewing co-owner Stephanie Bennett. This committee oversees the city’s revolving loans to private property and business owners to make exterior improvements to properties in the city.

City Community Development Director Lisa Scott said the businesses that did not get funded in this first round will receive notice from the city asking for more details about the types of outside COVID-19 relief funding they received and how those funds were used, “so we can determine (city funding) is not a duplication of funds.” She said the Good Neighbors committee will now be faced with the even larger task of determining eligibility based on factors other than outside funding.

“There’s a lot more information that needs to come forward, so the hard work of the committee really comes into play,” said Scott. “They have to wade through the remainder and determine funding amounts and come back with their recommendations to the council.”

Ward 6 Councilman Frank Gordon asked if other businesses could apply for the second round of consideration, and was told that since the city has already received requests for more than the $200,000 it had allocated for small business grants the list of those who applied before the initial deadline would be the list considered by the committee.

Council President Dee Anne Shaw told the council she hoped the committee would see if the relief the other applicants received from outside sources was in the form of a grant or a loan.

“When it comes to received funding I’d like to make sure they’re making the distinction between receiving a grant and taking a loan to keep their business open, and I hope the council appreciates it’s not double-dipping” to provide city CARES Act grants to businesses who had to take loans to keep their businesses afloat.