Clallam County aims to fund small business grants

Board also highlights utility relief

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has spent or committed $3.52 million in federal coronavirus relief funding and has about $657,000 left to disperse within six priority areas, the three commissioners heard Monday.

The county received $4.18 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told commissioners that about $657,000 in CARES Act funding was available as of Monday.

“That’s kind of where we stand right now,” Lane said in a board work session.

Commissioners Mark Ozias and Randy Johnson said they would be comfortable providing an additional $150,000 to small businesses and $150,000 for rental and utility assistance to individuals.

“I strongly support the allocation to small businesses,” Commissioner Bill Peach said in the virtual meeting.

“I hope that our allocation can increase in the future.”

Commissioners had previously identified six priority areas — public health, business support, rental and utility assistance, support for the homeless population, child care and food security — for CARES Act funding.

Six working groups were formed around each of the priority areas to make recommendations for CARES Act spending.

Clallam County has hired additional public health staff for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been looking into the process of allocating additional resources with a public health messaging campaign, and I believe looking at potentially bringing in an additional temporary staff person to help with some of the business outreach,” Ozias said Monday.

County officials were working with the Clallam County Economic Development Council (EDC) on a grant program for small businesses, Lane said.

“I’m pretty confident that this week we’ll be able to get a draft of that agreement teed up for our next work session for approval next week,” Lane told commissioners Monday.

Clallam County will divert some CARES Act funding to the Clallam County Public Utility District, city of Port Angeles and Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) to provide rental and utility relief to individuals, Lane said.

Clallam County and OlyCAP also have partnered to provide a COVID-19 social-distancing center for the homeless population in west Port Angeles.

The county is funding the quarantine and isolation center with a $433,000 homeless relief grant from the state Department of Commerce and will allocate an additional $200,000 in CARES Act funding.

Johnson had said the total monthly cost of that facility in the Port of Port Angeles-owned 1010 building is about $85,000.

County officials are seeking an extended lease with the port for the 1010 building and discussing the possible use of the Clallam County Fairgrounds as a future site for the social distancing center.

Lane said the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula had agreed to serve as a grant sub-recipient for child care.

Washington State University’s Clallam County Extension Office is making a $60,000 purchase of two cold storage units for food security, Lane said.

“Given the progress that we’ve made, and given Mark’s update, I would certainly be comfortable upping our initial allocations, at least to the business recovery effort, and the rental and utility relief recovery effort, by another $100,000 to $200,000 each,” Ozias said.

Johnson said he was “thinking in a similar vein.”

“If we could allocate another $150,000 to businesses, and another $150,000 to the rent relief across the spectrum, I wold certainly be for doing that,” Johnson said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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