PORT ANGELES — A $70,000 program is being established by the Port of Port Angeles to help small businesses overcome challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The port will match a $69,000 federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant that the tax district received for airport operations with $70,000 from the general fund for the grant program, commissioners decided Tuesday.
The grant will cover COVID-19-related costs such as sanitation and personal protective equipment.
Entrepreneurs with up to 15 employees and self-employed proprietors and contractors will be eligible for the $1,000 allotments, commissioners decided.
Clallam County officials voted on Wednesday to apply for a Phase 2 variance, which would allow the county to join Jefferson County and 23 others in entering Gov. Jay Inslee’s second of four phases of reopening before the rest of the state.
If approved by state officials, some businesses could reopen under state guidelines.
Port board President Steven Burke said Wednesday he’s hopeful the port will be ready to process grant applications quickly, possibly sooner than the next regular meeting on June 9.
“Ideally, with going to the next phase, there are businesses that are incurring costs related to going to Phase 2, and we wanted to try to be ready as soon as possible or maybe just a little after Phase 2 is authorized for our county,” Burke said
The port automatically received the CARES Act funding for William R. Fairchild International Airport, as did Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, he said.
The district will likely receive the funds within 30 days.
“There really haven’t been any actual costs related to COVID that affect our airport, at least not significantly,” Burke said.
“We’ll use it for the airport, but we’ll take general fund money to match it” for the grant program, he added.
“I feel strongly that if we get CARES money related to COVID, it really needs to go to our community in some fashion.
“We don’t just want to enrich our coffers.
“We want it to be distributed to people that are affected by COVID, and this is a way we can do that.”
The port sees the grant program as a way to help businesses beyond assisting them with rental of port property, Executive Director Karen Goschen said Tuesday at the commissioners’ meeting.
“This is having a tremendous hardship on businesses,” she said of the pandemic.
“We have leeway on helping instead of just deferring rent.”
Other ports also are considering how they can help businesses that are not necessarily port tenants, Goschen added.
Commissioner Connie Beauvais of Joyce said a small business such as the Blackberry Cafe in Joyce might not survive if required to halve its sit-down customer capacity, but with $1,000 it might be able to make it by continuing with take-out service.
She said businesses would have to be specific about expenditures covered by the $1,000 to take advantage of the program.
“There are people who will apply just to apply,” Beauvais said.
“They have to show how their business has been affected and why they are asking for these funds.”
Goschen said Wednesday she will develop a framework for the program for the commissioners’ consideration at a special meeting the first week in June.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].