The City of Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) recently awarded an additional 356 businesses $10,000 grants from the Small Business Stabilization Fund (SBSF), reaching a significant investment milestone of over $10 million in grants to small businesses throughout Seattle who have been impacted by COVID-19 since March 2020.
In addition, OED awarded $3,150 grants to 647 restaurants and bars from an expanded COVID-19 relief package that specifically focused on restaurants, bars and hospitality workers announced by the City in December 2020. To date, nearly 1,500 small businesses and economic opportunity non-profits have received over $10 million in funding.
“As more and more Seattle residents are getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19, hope is on the horizon — but many of our local small businesses are still facing a long and uncertain road to recovery. Working together in the early days of this crisis, we quickly created the Seattle Small Business Stabilization Fund, which has become a model for cities across our country,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “This pandemic and the resulting economic downturn have been devastating for too many of our small businesses. I am proud of the OED team for working tirelessly to get these funds into business owners’ hands as quickly as possible. Our region is on the road to recovery, but we are not out of the woods yet. As Seattle reopens, we all still have a role to play in ending this pandemic. Now is not the time to let up on our efforts. Please continue to wear a mask in public, keep your distance and limit social gatherings, get tested if you feel sick, and sign up to receive the vaccine.”
“Our small businesses have done everything possible to survive, support their employees and continue to serve our community. The need has been significantly greater than the resources the City has had access to. However, I am incredibly proud of the work our Office of Economic Development has done to provide some relief to as many of our small businesses as our resources allowed,” said Pamela Banks, Interim Director of the Office of Economic Development and Director of Recovery and Equitable Investments. “As we move toward long-term recovery, we will continue to support our small businesses’ ability not only to survive, but to thrive in our city. We will have to be creative in our solutions and intentional in how we implement recovery strategies, especially for our Black, Indigenous and other people of color businesses who have suffered disproportionately not just from COVID-19, but from institutional racism and disinvestment for generations.”
To prioritize funding to businesses that are most likely to have experienced the greatest economic impacts, OED awarded two-thirds of SBSF grants to businesses with five or fewer employees and from areas identified as highly disadvantaged or at high risk of displacement. To date, 66% of all SBSF grantees are from high-displacement or highly disadvantaged neighborhoods, 60% of the recipients identify as people of color and 43% are women-owned businesses. Additionally, OED allocated nearly 14% of grants from rounds four and five to creative industry small businesses to better support this industry and its workers.
In rounds four and five specifically, 54% of grantees are people of color and 46% are women-owned businesses. Of the grantees for restaurants and bars, 58% of business owners are people of color and 37% are women-owned businesses.
“We are glad the dark clouds are finally passing with the immunizations happening. We are happy that the city is thinking of small businesses with the Small Business Stabilization Grant, because without it our doors would be closed right now,” said Frank Anduvate, owner of Rumba Notes Lounge and recipient of a Stabilization Fund grant.
In March 2020, OED quickly launched the Small Business Stabilization Fund to provide emergency capital to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The SBSF provides $10,000 grants to small businesses and economic opportunity nonprofits throughout Seattle. The latest rounds of the SBSF were funded by the joint COVID-19 relief bill that the Mayor and City Council passed in August 2020.
To be eligible for a grant, a small business or nonprofit was required to have 25 or fewer employees, be located within Seattle city limits, and have an annual net revenue at or below $2 million. Nonprofits had to explicitly provide economic opportunity support through education and/or job training programs to be eligible. All businesses and nonprofit organizations that received a grant committed to not reducing their employees’ wages and benefits provided prior to the COVID-19 emergency.
In December 2020, the City committed additional funding for restaurants, bars and hospitality workers. Whereas the Human Services Department administered grants for hospitality workers, OED partnered with Scholarship Junkies to administer grants to eligible restaurants and bars.
OED awarded $10,000 SBSF grants to 237 small businesses and economic opportunity nonprofits in round four and an additional 119 businesses in round five, totaling $3,560,000 in funding. Additionally, $2 million in grants to 647 restaurants and bars were awarded. As a result, over $5.5 million additional funding has been released to support Seattle’s smallest and hardest hit businesses over the past few months.