Grays Harbor County Commissioners OK nine more small businesses for CARES Act grants

Grays Harbor County Commissioners on Friday approved nine more small businesses for CARES Act grants.

This is the second round of funding, for a total of $83,300 to businesses within the county who suffered losses due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions. This brings the total of approved businesses to 25 and the total funding awarded to $205,724.

Up to $500,000 in grants has been earmarked by the county for small business relief grants of up to $10,000 each. Businesses awarded grants, and the amount each was granted, Friday were:

• Aberdeen Elks, $10,000

• Aberdeen VFW Post 224, $10,000

• D&R Events Center, $10,000

• D&R Theater, $10,000

• Lantz’s Northwest Passage, $10,000

• Pat’s Hair Fashion, $5,800

• The Polynesian Resort, $10,000

• Rusty Anchor Grill and Pub, $10,000

• Thian’s Thai Fusion, $8,000

The county’s .09 Advisory Committee, which reviews Distressed Rural County Economic Development grant applications, reviews the CARES Act small business grant applications and forwards their recommendations to the commissioners for final approval.

Commissioner Randy Ross offered an amendment to the list of nine, asking to remove the D&R Theater and D&R Events Center from the list and send those applications back to the committee for further review.

“I don’t know if those are viable businesses at this time,” he said, saying he would approve the others. Commissioner Wes Cormier seconded Ross’ amendment for further discussion.

Commissioner Vickie Raines said, “I would rather not postpone” any of the businesses forwarded to the commission by the committee. “I’d rather approve it and then require additional information be required at the time of the grant contract, and if they’re not eligible and can’t provide that information then they can’t get a grant.”

After discussion, Cormier withdrew his second to Ross’ amendment to remove the two businesses and the amendment failed.

Back to the original nine businesses, Ross asked that Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave be allowed to speak. The D&R Theater and Events Center were not approved for Aberdeen’s own CARES Act small business grants because at the time they were not up to date on their city business improvement fund payments.

Schave said “CARES Act money is from the federal government to help our struggling businesses,” and questioned what he saw as Ross’ second guessing of the process and the .09 Committee’s decisions. “Obviously Randy (Ross) does not trust the committee.” Ross argued his concerns had nothing to do with the work of the committee.

“I think the .09 Committee has done its job and referred (the recommendations) back to us,” said Raines. “There are still steps the businesses need to go through to get the funding, and we can ensure the checks and balances are done on our end.”

County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Norma Tillotson said the county “put down a set of parameters to apply for CARES funding and those that met the parameters are moved forward in the process. It seems to be not be in the county’s best interest to single out one or two businesses who have fulfilled their obligation under the application process and been awarded funds under the .09 Committee process to pull those back. That seems like it would be opening ourselves up and I don’t want the county to go there.”

Ross argued that he had tried to get more specific parameters included in the application process. “Even though I tried to provide additional guidance in this, so far it has not been taken to heart,” he said, concerned that one entity applying for four different grants under the same UBI — business identification number — went against what he thought was the spirit of the grant process.

“Another concern is if we’re going to change in the procedure in the middle of the process I think we need to start from scratch again,” said Tillotson. “There are only a couple of months before we need to get the documents in to get reimbursed under the CARES Act and it doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the county to change the rules at this time.”

In the end, the list of nine businesses was approved for grants, with Raines and Cormier voting to approve and Ross voting no. Aberdeen Community Development Director Lisa Scott said Monday now that the D&R Theater and Events Center were approved for county funding they are no longer eligible for city funding.