Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health.
The Washington State Department of Commerce announced a new grant program launching Oct. 4 to help certain small businesses hurting due to the U.S.-Canada border closure. The border has been closed to most travelers since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Working Washington Grants: Border Business Relief Program will focus on customer-facing businesses that have experienced hardship specifically as a result of the COVID-19 border restrictions. Businesses must have reported annual revenues of $5 million or less in 2019 to the Department of Revenue and be located in Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, Island, Skagit, Whatcom, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens or Pend Oreille counties.
Information and a preview of the application is available now at commercegrants.com. The application portal will be open Oct. 4-18. Customer support will be available in English and Spanish beginning Sept. 29.
“For businesses that depend on visitors coming into or out of Canada, this closure has been extraordinarily difficult. This grant program is one way we can help small businesses hang on until U.S. and Canadian officials reach an agreement about reopening,” said. Gov. Jay Inslee. In July, Inslee visited businesses in Point Roberts, a small border town that has been essentially isolated as a result of the closure.
Grants will be up to $50,000 and take into account whether the business has received a previous Working Washington grant.
This targeted grant program will prioritize businesses that meet one or more of the following criteria:
• Customer-facing businesses that require direct, in-person interaction with customers for a significant portion of business activity. Examples include a retail shop or nail salon.
• Businesses located within a 20-mile radius of a Canadian border crossing or port.
• Industry sectors most impacted by the closure, which includes but is not limited to, retail, tourism, hospitality, recreation and entertainment.
• Size of the business (measured by 2019 revenue)
• Lost revenue between 2019 and 2020 and/or added expenses to maintain safe operations
• Businesses operating in a rural or low-income community and/or owned by someone from a historically underserved population (minority, veteran, LGBTQ+ or women-owned).
Commerce, which has administered almost a dozen business and nonprofit grant programs to date, will also be working on a new, larger round of Working Washington business grants funded by the state legislature in the 2021 session. That program will likely launch this winter.
“We appreciate the support of the governor and legislators in our many efforts to support communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” said Lisa Brown, director of the Department of Commerce. “While recovery is going well for some businesses, many continue to face daunting challenges. It’s very uneven at this point. A strong, equitable recovery requires us to focus on those who still face barriers to getting back on their feet.”