Clallam County offers more grants to tourism-based nonprofits

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has issued a second call for grant applications from tourism-based nonprofits saddled with impacts of COVID-19 precautions.

The three commissioners Tuesday also approved a $125,000 payment to Craft3 for a small business loan program and inked a letter of support to the city of Port Angeles for its administration of community development block grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Clallam County Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommended a second round of “Keeping the Lights On” grants to nonprofits that bring visitors to the area, said Commissioner Randy Johnson, who chairs the lodging tax committee.

Commissioners approved $165,129 in lodging tax expenditures to seven local nonprofits in the first grant cycle in April.

The four-month grants are targeted for tourism-based nonprofits impacted by the state’s stay-home order for COVID-19.

“Many, many people that originally had thought that they were OK have discovered since then … things aren’t looking quite so rosy,” Johnson said in Tuesday’s meeting.

“That’s an understatement. Things are actually looking pretty dire in many cases.”

Funding for the $5,000 to $25,000 grants comes from the county’s “heads in beds” tax on overnight stays at lodging establishments in unincorporated areas. The tax is taken as a credit against the 6.5 percent state sales tax.

Applications for the second round of grants are due June 16.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee agreed to delay a destination marketing study because of COVID-19, Johnson said.

“The whole thought process about what we’re marketing, that’s going to change, I’m sure,” Johnson said.

“Certainly, we still have all the many attributes this beautiful area has, but, I mean, the whole thought process was, ‘Let’s delay it.’

“When you have folks that may not be able to survive, it kind of calls into the question why are we doing that (study) right now,” Johnson said.

Commissioner Mark Ozias thanked the advisory committee for “pushing this support through the door as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, commissioners approved Tuesday a $125,000 agreement with Craft3 to support private businesses that have been closed for COVID-19.

Craft3, a nonprofit lender with an office in Port Angeles, will make up to $500,000 in loans to small businesses affected by COVID-19, according to a memo.

“In partnership with the county, Craft3 looks forward to making (funding) available to businesses to keep our community open for business,” Craft3 Vice President Erika Lindholm told commissioners Tuesday.

Johnson said Craft3’s small business loan program was “just part of the toolkit I think businesses are going to need.”

Commissioners added to their Tuesday agenda a letter affirming the county’s support for joining with regional partners on a consortium application to the state Department of Commerce for CARES Act funding.

The city of Port Angeles has agreed to administer federal community development block grants (CDBG) on behalf of the county and cities of Sequim and Forks.

“These funds are designed to target people in micro-enterprise, small business owners in what’s considered to be low to moderate household income levels,” Clallam County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told commissioners.

Clallam County jurisdictions are eligible for a total of $351,146 in the current round of CDBG funding, Lane said.

“They’re not competitive grants,” Lane said.

“They’ve actually been earmarked and allotted to us if we chose to move forward with them.

“One of the things that is a downside of CDBG is it can be relatively burdensome to administrate,” Lane added.

“The city of Port Angeles, given their in-house resources and expertise in CDBG, has agreed to be the grant applicant for the county and the three cities under this consortium application.”

The Clallam County Economic Development Council (EDC) is helping to facilitate the consortium application, Lane said.

“I’d say that the EDC does have a good process, and we’re not charging any administrative fee whatsoever,” EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer told commissioners.

“This program is quite burdensome in that it’s federal (funding) passed to the state, then passed to the primary grant applicant, and then you have to have interlocal agreements with the different entities, and then also sub-agreements.”

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

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