EVERETT — Art galleries, billiards, breweries, clothiers, diners, doughnuts, groceries, rent, tamales, transportation and utility bills will receive thousands of federal pandemic dollars through the city.
They comprise the 50 small businesses and 11 nonprofit service providers on the city of Everett’s allocation lists for $1 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money.
Cities, counties and states mobilized public health plans to slow the spread of the respiratory disease, which meant shuttering businesses for months. Congress passed the bailout package in response to a surge in nationwide unemployment related to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Everett received and reviewed 153 applications for its small business grant program. A few applicants were disqualified because they were not within Everett city limits.
The swift spike in job losses also meant problems for people trying to make rent and pay their bills. That’s why Everett split its $1 million in federal money between commerce and nonprofits, of which 28 service providers applied for a Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The awarded amounts varied between $10,000 and more than $100,000.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” city spokesperson Julio Cortes said. “We definitely knew we were going to have more than we were going to be able to grant to … We wish we had more funds obviously to support all of them.”
Checks haven’t been sent yet because the city is finalizing contracts with each recipient. Once the papers are signed and approved, those funds should arrive in the next two or three weeks.
The money could be a lifeline for people to pay their bills.
Each of the selected 50 small businesses — of which 27 are owned by women, 14 by minorities, four by veterans and two by people who are LGBTQIA — will get $10,000. The city chose to divvy the money evenly and across the unofficial north-south divider of 41st Street to be fair, equal and “helpful,” Cortes said.
“We could have given $1,000 grants to more businesses,” he said. “But would that have saved the business, would that have helped the business? Probably not.”
Commercial leases in Everett, like housing, vary depending on the condition, location and size. But single office and retail spaces usually start around $2 per square foot. Larger commercial buildings can cost a few thousand dollars per month.
That’s just overhead. Then there are labor costs, which were cut in droves across Snohomish County where unemployment reached a high of 19.2% in April before recently receding to 9.8%. The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area saw 246,000 people unemployed in May and 165,400 last month, according to state Employment Security Department data.
Lazy Boy Brewing, considered an essential business, kept operating during the early closures, owner Shawn Loring said. But their business as a distributor sank 90% when bars and restaurants closed.
Once those reopened, their revenue began to recover. Now, with the latest state mandate for indoor seating changing, Loring is bracing for another drop.
“We’re super appreciative of the Everett CARES Act,” he said. “It’s definitely going to help us out.”
He said the $10,000 will go to back bills for rent, utilities and vendors.
Everett CARES Act applicants had to show where the money would go, including a requirement that much of it would be used for payroll. To verify how the money is used, the businesses must enter into a contract with the city that permits Everett’s community development and economic development staff to check in over the coming months.
With less than one-third of applicants approved for small business funds, there are more that may need financial support. Cortes said the city launched EverettForEverett.com in late March, a business directory that includes information about “Safe Start” guidelines and plans and resources for small businesses. It was translated, with help from the Snohomish Health District, into several languages.
Clothing store Burkett’s and Evergreen State Heat & AC, both selected by the city for $10,000, declined the money because they didn’t need it and wanted it to go where it was needed, Cortes said. City staff are reviewing existing applicants to distribute that money.
Of the 11 nonprofits receiving funds, eight will use the money for housing. The others are required to use it for food.
Volunteers of America Western Washington, based in Everett, led the nonprofit awardees with $104,121. It’ll be used for the agency’s Dispute Resolution Center, which works with tenants and landlords to prevent evictions.
“All of those dollars will go directly to rent payments,” senior director LaDessa Croucher said.
Across Snohomish County, the demand for rental assistance has grown. Croucher said her office saw 223 households ask for help, totaling more than $500,000 over the first 16 days of July. That’s more than all of last year.
“With this, this is really just a different group of people,” Croucher said. “This is people of all income levels who have never been in this situation. … It’s been anxious.”
The clients are asking for funds between $800, below the median rent in the county, and as much as $5,000.
Housing Hope and Refugee & Immigrant Services Northwest collaborated on their application for rental assistance funds for people with low incomes. They’re to receive $60,000.
The two agencies have worked together on several projects and grant applications because their clients often are similar.
“We’re specifically targeting some of the most vulnerable populations,” Housing Hope Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Kohl said. “They tend to be low-wage earners, and those are going to be families that are primarily, of course, refugees and immigrants and people who were previously homeless.”
Their application sought more money to help keep people in their homes.
Basic needs soon could be further in jeopardy as the weekly federal $600 unemployment benefit is set to expire at the end of July.
“Sixty thousand dollars is not going to meet the need,” Kohl said. “That’s how much we were awarded because there is of course a much greater need than the money available.”
The money wasn’t designated yet, but Kohl said they’re likely to distribute it at $1,000 per household for about 60 families.
Housing Hope’s clients could use donated gas and grocery store gift cards, and money for rental assistance.
“Those types of assistance help us a lot,” Kohl said. “We want to make sure they can get to that job interview and make sure they can feed their families.”
For ChildStrive, which works primarily with families in south Everett and along Casino Road, the focus is food security. The nonprofit is to receive $53,225. How that will be spent will be spelled out in the city contract, CEO Jim Welsh said. The money is marked for basic needs, meaning it could go, for example, to the warm meal program, the drop-in food bank or rental assistance.
“The CARES Act has been absolutely critical,” Welsh said.
The families that come to ChildStrive for help have many needs, such as diapers, hygiene products, activities for young children and families, access to Wi-Fi, digital devices, child care and food. The nonprofit is accepting donations, and Welsh also asked people to consider supporting Connect Casino Road and Madres de Casino Road.
If Congress approves another round of federal funding, Cortes said, the city would use its list of applicants to consider other allocations.