Edmonds to use $1 million from CARES Act for relief programs

Money is being earmarked for individuals and small businesses.

EDMONDS — The city of Edmonds has added $350,000 to its fund to help cover rent, groceries or other expenses for residents affected by the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, more than 120 Edmonds residents applied for up to $1,000 in aid, funded by the city and administered by two local nonprofits. With only $33,000 available, the city had more applicants than they could assist.

On Tuesday, the Edmonds City Council voted 6-1 to use hundreds of thousands of federal CARES Act dollars to bolster the residential aid program and small business grants. The council approved the residential relief fund in April, but opted to roll it out with three monthly installments of $33,000 each. Now, the city is adding $300,000 from the CARES Act and $50,000 from a previous program.

“We all were guessing there was going to be a pretty substantial demand,” said Councilman Luke Distelhorst, who introduced the idea to the council. “… I’m glad that the program is going to be well utilized, looking at how COVID is continuing to not go away. I think the economic impacts are going to continue and linger, too.”

Edmonds residents seeking city aid must earn less than 60% of the county’s median household income. That’s $67,262 for a five-person household, $62,280 for four, $56,052 for three, $49,824 for two and $43,596 for a person living alone.

The application was set to expire on June 18, but has remained open indefinitely. To apply, visit www.wellspringfs.org/edmonds.

As of Tuesday, 133 people had applied for coronavirus relief, 10 of whom were not Edmonds residents and deemed ineligible. Payments could start going out to landlords, service providers or grocery stores for items like grocery or gas cards as early as next week, the city’s economic development Director Patrick Doherty said.

The council also decided to increase aid for families of three or more to $1,500 in aid. Households of that size that applied prior to the vote are automatically eligible for the increased amount, Doherty said.

The city is currently reconsidering applicants who were were denied aid due to a lack of funding, too.

In addition to residential relief, the council OK’d a plan to use $700,000 from the CARES Act for grants to small businesses.

The remaining federal dollars, some $265,000, will go to costs associated with the city’s COVID-19 response. That includes cleaning city buildings, hazard pay for employees, and personal protective gear for city staff.

For the grants, eligible businesses must have 30 or fewer employees, demonstrate revenue loss of at least 30% in April or May, and have been in business in Edmonds for at least one year.

An application should be available in the next few weeks, Distelhorst said.

Accepted businesses can receive up to $10,000 in aid.

Preferences will be given businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and other minorities, who haven’t received any federal, state or county relief and can demonstrate greater losses in April or May.

The city also hopes to distribute grants geographically across the city. Creative-sector businesses within the Edmonds Creative District will also receive particular consideration, according to the program.

On Tuesday, Mayor Mike Nelson read an email sent by Councilwoman Kristiana Johnson, in which she asks whether it’s fair to give a business owned by Asian people preference for the loans over one operated by white people.

Johnson, who voted against the CARES Act package, said Nelson was “acting out of his role” by reading the email.

“I take exception with you reading a private correspondence that I had with a director and shaming me in public,” she told Nelson during Tuesday night’s meeting. Following the meeting, Distelhorst issued a statement saying he “will not have patience for racism in our city, including among our city’s elected leaders.”

Distelhorst was appointed to the council earlier this year. His wife and two daughters are Asian.

“My family has faced discrimination and racism in their daily lives at work, school, and in our community,” the statement says. “Racism that I generally did not face during the five years I spent living in Asia. This takes a town. We all need to speak. We all need to listen. We all need to act.”

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