Economic leaders in Clallam and Jefferson counties are working with businesses to lessen the blow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Jay Inslee extended the closure of non-essential businesses through May 4, and county economic development councils are helping local businesses apply for grants and loans.
Brian Kuh, the EDC Team Jefferson executive director, and Arlene Alen, the executive director of the Chamber of Jefferson County, briefed the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners on Monday, discussing the ways they have been helping business owners.
Kuh said the EDC and teams from both counties’ chambers have been working to assist and share advice on how to apply for funding.
“EDC Team Jefferson’s immediate priorities to address the COVID-19 crisis is to identify what resources are available to businesses and ensure they have access to that information along with technical assistance to help them make informed decisions,” Kuh said.
The Team Jefferson website at edcteamjefferson.org/COVID19 and the Clallam EDC website at chooseclallamfirst.com have compiled lists of information for business owners who may be able to apply for assistance.
The Chamber of Jefferson County also has compiled a list of business resources. However the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce has all the information at the Choose Clallam site so everything is centralized in one location, executive director Marc Abshire said.
One resource for Jefferson County businesses is the Local Investing Opportunities Network (LION) new loan program. The application and instructions are downloadable from the LION website at L2020.org/lion.
A fast-track process has been established to handle the applications, LION officials said.
LION is a network that connects business and nonprofits seeking financing with more than 60 local investors. Since 2006, LION members have invested in more than 75 Jefferson County businesses and nonprofits.
Alen and her team have compiled a list of businesses in Jefferson County who have online sales and gift cards in order to encourage sales, she said. The list can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-JeffCoOnlineSales.
“No matter where you are, you can spend money in Jefferson County without coming here,” Alen said.
By buying gift cards from a business that is closed due to the pandemic, it provides funds that can be used once the store reopens, she said.
The Jefferson chamber also created a blog, “JeffConnects,” that will be used to keep people informed about the business news in the county, Alen said.
The Clallam EDC has seen an influx in calls from non-essential businesses for support, and it also has been helping business owners apply for financing through the Small Business Administration and other grant and loan options, said executive director Colleen McAleer.
Some of the hangups on getting support from the SBA include the large number of requests that have been submitted, McAleer said.
She confirmed one business has been approved in Clallam for a $10,000 grant and is working on the final approval process.
The Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce has shifted its focus to when stores are able to reopen, Abshire said.
“We’re focused on things we can do and put in place to bring us out of it,” Abshire said. “We’re targeting the first week of July and onward.
“The May 4 extension will absolutely make it more tougher for businesses … but if we were to open too early, that could be even more damaging,” he said. “It’s a short-term pain for a long-term solution.”
Abshire and his team are considering a tribute concert on July 3 and a large community Fourth of July celebration, among other ideas, but everything is contingent on how the community is recovering from the virus, he said.
“The whole reason is to drive more activity to Port Angeles and celebrate the end of the virus,” Abshire said.
Once businesses can reopen, Abshire said the chamber will continue to do its red ribbon-cutting ceremony for new businesses, but they will also have red, white and blue ribbon ceremonies to celebrate businesses that are able to re-open.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].