SEQUIM — Sequim City Council members have unanimously agreed to allocate up to $250,000 in grants through the city’s Small Business Rapid Relief program.
The amount agreed upon Monday night was in addition to the $500,000 the city has disbursed to local restaurants and bars during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New City Manager Matt Huish, who began work Nov. 1, was unavailable for Monday’s council meeting, which would have been his first. City staff confirmed he worked his first week, Nov. 1-5, and that he had planned to attend the council meeting. They said only that he was unavailable. He is anticipated to be recognized at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 22.
Sue Hagener, Sequim’s administrative services director, said in a telephone interview that 58 businesses in city limits received the funds, with some receiving two separate grants in different application sessions.
Funding comes from the city’s Rainy Day Fund, she said, with about $174,000 reimbursed from the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.
Hagener told council members that $435,000 was budgeted to go back into the Rainy Day Fund and that, in October, it was reported that August was the highest month for sales tax revenue ever.
“Our restaurant population is making it through this,” she said.
City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said the former executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, Anji Scalf, was “a critical component of distributing the funds,” so the city likely would need to reach out to another agency.
Mayor William Armacost said the high sales tax figure was excellent news and that city staff should consider reaching out to an economic development agency to see if they can partner with the city in helping determine grant recipients.
He added the fourth quarter is an important time to retailers and “another opportunity we can reach out and give them this hand up.”
Armacost encouraged the council to consider adding non-restaurant/bar businesses that are in need to those eligible to apply.
Council member Keith Larkin said many restaurant owners he’s spoken with are not getting days off; they are working long hours and could use some support.
Hagener said it’s unknown when staff can reengage the program and begin accepting applications as staff reach out to economic development agencies for assistance.
“We have no idea of the capacity to support this,” she said.
Previously, applicants went through the Chamber of Commerce’s website and the city had representatives involved in the application-vetting process and check disbursal.
The chamber didn’t charge a processing fee for the first set of funding, and it had a 10 percent administrative fee, or about $10,000, for the second round, Hagener said.
“We need some time to see what we’re going to do and see who we’re going to work,” she said in a telephone interview.
City staff said to check the city’s website for potential updates at www.sequimwa.gov.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].