City works to disperse local CARES Act funding for small businesses

By: Chloe LeValley - May 03, 2020
Source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

Over half a million dollars in relief funds for small businesses are on the way as the city rolls out two new programs to the public this month.

The Walla Walla Valley Small Business Relief Fund will offer a grant and a loan program putting Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds into the hands of businesses needing relief from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The city announced the programs during the Thursday afternoon series, Business Resource Town Hall, livestreamed by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Deputy City Manager Byron Olson said the city is looking at ways to preserve jobs and help offset costs incurred by businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The amount of funding that we’ve got is woefully inadequate, but we want to do the best we can with that, so people have jobs to return to,” he said. “We are trying to find ways that we can make life better, easier and more productive for our small businesses as we start to begin our recovery.”

This fund is a part of that effort.

The city is working to approve this plan and included nonprofit micro-lender Mercy Corps Northwest and community development financial institution Craft3, to manage the grant and loan programs, respectively. Craft3 brought $320,000 to the loan program.

Businesses within the city of Walla Walla will have higher priority as most of the funding is coming from the city. Still, all businesses in Walla Walla County are eligible to apply for the funds.

“The funds from the CARES Act that are coming to us to create this Small Business Relief Fund are (Community Development Block Grant) coronavirus dollars,” Community Development Block Grant Coordinator Jennifer Beckmeyer said. She said the city also added $30,000 from the previous two years of CDGB allocations to the fund.

Walla Walla County has pitched in about $44,891 to support both the grant and loan programs.

“We are looking for additional private funding to support the (Walla Walla Valley) Small Business Relief Fund going forward,” Olson said.

The grant program currently has about $137,000, Beckmeyer said. The city is working on the application for this program through Mercy Corps Northwest.

Unlike many federal and state programs, the grants will provide relief for businesses that have less than a year of operation.

Eligible applicants are sole proprietors, micro-enterprises and small businesses with up to a maximum of 10 employees including the owner, she said.

Available grants range from $2,500 to $10,000 for lease payments, monthly debt payments, payroll, payroll taxes, cost of goods, utility payments and more, she said.

Construction or acquisition of property for either program is an ineligible use of the funds, she said.

The business loan fund will be available through Craft3, Beckmeyer said.

The loan is for businesses that can support a small amount of debt, have been around at least two years and can show tax returns for 2018 and a profit for 2019, she said.

Loans will range $10,000 up to $50,000 with a 5% fixed interest rate on a 48-month term.

Business owners can fill out a screening application that will be reviewed for eligibility by a local committee.

Businesses deemed eligible will receive a loan application directly from Craft3.

Funding will not be available to businesses that have already received assistance from other federal programs, such as the Small Business Administration.

Disadvantaged business owners, women and minority-owned businesses are encouraged to apply, Olson said. Applications for both programs will be available in Spanish.

The city will provide more details of these programs on its website