This article was updated on June 25, 2020.
What Is Washington State Doing To Help Businesses?
State leaders recognize the hardships placed on local businesses due to COVID-19. In response, they have developed the following programs to support Washington businesses through this challenging time.
Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant
Established by Governor Inslee, the Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant was one of the earliest initiatives created to help small businesses. Its goal is to keep employees on the payroll.
With $5 million of available funding, this program offered grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses that have 10 employees or less. All additional eligibility criteria were determined on a county-by-county basis.
On May 19, the Governor’s office announced the first wave of grant awardees. The program is currently closed to new applications [6-3-20].
Small Business Resiliency Program
The Washington State Ethnic Commission partnered with the Washington Department of Commerce to create the Small Business Resiliency Program. This program offers business owners with culturally and linguistically appropriate support, including:
- Business coaching via email or phone call
- Translation services
- Financial resources
- Application assistance
Back-To-Work Planning Assistance
Even though the future is still uncertain, Washington leaders recognize that business owners are anxious to reopen as soon as possible. In response, the Washington State Department of Commerce has created a comprehensive planning tool. This tool guides business owners through the reopening process, from supply chain logistics to legal considerations.
By reviewing the reopening process beforehand, business owners can get prepared for a statewide reopening in the near future.
Washington State Coronavirus Web Portal
Lastly, Washington State has created a comprehensive COVID-19 web portal, where Washington business owners can find the latest news updates and business resources all in one place.
What Types of Programs Are Being Offered By The Federal Government?
On March 27th, the Federal Government rolled out the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which funneled $1.8 trillion towards relief. On April 23rd, a secondary relief package was passed to provide additional funding. Together, these bills fund the following programs.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The Paycheck Protection Program supports small businesses struggling to afford their payroll expenses. To supplement these paychecks, this program provides a forgivable loan of up to $10 million. The only stipulation is that businesses must keep their employees on the payroll for at least 8 weeks and use the loan for:
- Payroll (60% of the loan must go towards this expense)
- Rent and mortgage expenses
The Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
The Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) offers up to $2 million to small businesses that are suffering financially due to a disaster. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses fall into this category. Your business can qualify for an EIDL loan if it has fewer than 500 employees.
To get disaster relief funds faster, the Small Business Association (SBA) is also providing an advance of up to $10,000 while businesses wait on their EIDL loans. This money is available right away, usually within a few days. Best of all, this money won’t need to be repaid if it’s used for:
- Sick leave pay
- Supply chain disruptions
- Rent and mortgage
- Debt payments
SBA Guaranteed Loan Payment Relief
For businesses struggling to make their loan payments, the CARES Act also offers Guaranteed Loan Payment Relief. In other words, businesses can have their loan payments taken care of for up to 6 months.
The following types of loans are covered in this program:
- 7(a) loans
- 504 loans
SBA Express Bridge Loans
If your business could use $25,000 right now, look into applying for the Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program. To qualify, you must already have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender.
Once you’ve received your loan, you can use it to compensate for revenue lost to the coronavirus. Just keep in mind that these loans have a 6.5% interest rate and are not forgivable.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Washington State?
Since Washington State detected its first case of COVID-19 on January 21st, it has become one of the nation’s hotspots for coronavirus. Current case numbers can be found through Google’s case tracker.
In a sad turn of events, a nursing home in the Seattle suburbs experienced a coronavirus outbreak, making news headlines nationwide. The entire facility was sent into isolation, leaving many vulnerable residents trapped inside. Two-thirds of its resident population came down with the illness, showing just how transmittable the virus is.
Governor Jay Inslee’s Response
In an attempt to get the virus under control, Governor Inslee implemented a Stay at Home Order on March 23rd. This order banned recreational gatherings and closed down all “non-essential” businesses. Only essential businesses were permitted to stay open.
Washington’s social distancing measures have been effective at flattening the curve. In fact, Washington hospitals were able to send back 400 unneeded ventilators to the Federal stockpile.
Despite these improvements, schools will remain closed throughout the rest of the school year, with no guarantee of reopening in the Fall.
Reopening Businesses in Washington
On May 1st, Governor Inslee announced the “Safe Start” program for reopening businesses and other facilities. This multi-phase program allows individual counties to reopen when they meet all state-mandated safety criteria.
- Phase One allowed the following businesses to reopen in all Washington counties:
- Construction (April 24th)
- Curbside retail (May 8th)
- Medical and dental services (May 18th)
- As counties qualify, they will be able to reopen the following businesses in Phase Two:
- Dine-in restaurants (50% capacity)
- In-store retail
- Personal services (salons, makeup artists, etc.)
- Professional services
While many states have quickly reopened, Washington has taken a more cautious approach, with three counties still in Phase One by mid-June. However, twenty-three counties had moved on to Phase Two, and ten to phase three.
- Phase Three allows the following businesses to reopen:
- Restaurants at 75% capacity
- Bars and taverns (barring nightclubs) at 25% capacity
- Movie theaters at 50% capacity
- Museums and libraries
To qualify for reopening, businesses must comply with all state guidelines and those of their local county. Businesses in most industries must take the following steps:
- Designate a COVID-19 site supervisor
- Maintain social distancing
- Provide PPE for employees
- Conduct safety training for all employees
- Operate at reduced capacity (if applicable)
- Provide hand sanitizer for customers
- Restaurant and bars must switch to single use condiments and menus
The state provides further specific guidelines for each industry on its “Safe Start” page.
The Governor’s office will continue to offer guidance. Each phase will last at least three weeks.
Nextdoor: Bringing Together Local Businesses and Consumers
As you take advantage of the programs offered by Washington State and the Federal Government, make sure to promote your business locally as well. You can increase your revenue by creating a Nextdoor Business Page.
Nextdoor is a place for local businesses and local customers to come together. You can bolster your business’s local presence by allowing customers to leave recommendations. Best of all, Nextdoor users love sharing local business with their friends and family. According to an internal survey, 70% of people trust recommendations from people they know the most.
To stand out on Nextdoor during this time, find unique ways to support your local community throughout COVID-19. In doing so, you will set your businesses up to survive and thrive in the coming months.
Washington State Department of Health. 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19). https://www.doh.wa.gov/emergencies/coronavirus
The New York Times. The Coronavirus’s Rampage Through a Suburban Nursing Home. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/21/us/coronavirus-nursing-home-kirkland-life-care.html
Washington State Coronavirus Response (COVID-19). Essential business. https://coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed/essential-business
Washington State Coronavirus Response (COVID-19). Safe start. https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/safe-start
The Seattle Times. Washington sending over 400 ventilators for non-coronavirus patients to New York, harder hit states. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/washington-sending-over-400-ventilators-for-non-coronavirus-patients-to-new-york-harder-hit-states/
Komo News. Inslee extends statewide school closure order through end of year to tame COVID-19. https://komonews.com/news/coronavirus/gov-inslee-state-schools-superintendent-to-make-special-announcement
Washington State Department Commerce. Crisis Planning Tools & Resources. http://startup.choosewashingtonstate.com/links/crisis/covid-19-resources/
Business.wa.gov. COVID-19 LOANS AND GRANTS. https://www.business.wa.gov/site/alias__business/1563/sba-disaster-loans.aspx
U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act. https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/2/9/29fc1ae7-879a-4de0-97d5-ab0a0cb558c8/1BC9E5AB74965E686FC6EBC019EC358F.the-small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf
If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.