It’s never been easy to be a small business owner or worker, but in Seattle, it just got even tougher. Social distancing measures have had dire consequences for many Seattle small businesses. Here are some resources to help ease the burden on their owners and the broader workforce. We will keep this updated; email [email protected] with your suggestions.
For Small Business Owners
- Details on millions of dollars in loans available through the federal CARES Act. The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that Congress passed on March 27 has billions of dollars set aside for businesses and private nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees. These organizations can apply for federal Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Those who apply for an EIDL will immediately qualify for up to a $10,000 advance, distributed within three days. That money doesn't need to be repaid. In total, businesses and nonprofits can receive up to $2 million in lower interest loans through the EIDL program. You can apply here. Also, the Treasury Department's Paycheck Protection Program offers forgivable loans of up to $10 million per entity, provided the business or nonprofit maintains its payroll through June and puts the funds toward those costs. Refundable payroll tax credits and debt relief are part of the package as well. A helpful synopsis of the entire CARES Act can be found here. Implementation times for programs may vary; check in with the Seattle branch of the SBA to find out more.
- Free webinars to help understand and access the CARES Act. The Port of Seattle has put together a number of educational sessions to help small businesses pinpoint how the relief bill can assist them. Dates, times, and registration information can be found here.
- Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grants of up to $10,000. A limited number of businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees can apply for this assistance if they were negatively affected by COVID-19. Governor Jay Inslee's Strategic Reserve Fund backs the program, which is administered by the state's Department of Commerce. The application process is laid out here; the $5 million set aside for the grants will go fast, so get your app in ASAP.
- Seattle Office of Economic Development grants of up to $10,000. Drawing from a $1.5 million addition to the city's Small Business Stabilization Fund, these grants are available to small business owners who make 80 percent or less of the area's median income; have a physical location and five or fewer employees; and have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19. Financials must be shared as part of the process. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. (Update: It sounds like the mayor will add another $1 million to the fund due to the high number of applications.)
- Information about the city's business and occupation tax deadline extension. The city's Department of Finance and Administrative Services extended the city's B&O filing deadline for businesses who reported $5 million or less in revenue in 2019 and pay their B&O tax on a quarterly basis. The first and second quarters of 2020 will tentatively be due on or before October 31. The Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) is also working with affected businesses who need tax filing extensions, and it may also waive late payments in certain situations. Contact the DOR at 360-705-6705.
- Deferred payment plans with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle City Light (SCL), and Puget Sound Energy. Utilities will be kept on in Seattle throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial customers can set up deferred payment plans with SCL or SPU by calling 206-684-3000 or emailing here. Also, gas provider Puget Sound Energy will not be disconnecting customers, instead waiving late fees and offering payment plans.
- Amazon's Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund cash grants for South Lake Union and Regrade small businesses. The e-commerce giant will draw from a $5 million fund to support businesses with less than $7 million in annual revenue or fewer than 50 employees with a few blocks of its Seattle headquarters.
- Washington Small Business Development Center's Business Resiliency Toolkit and Guide. The center will also hold webinars March 16-20.
- The details on Mayor Jenny Durkan's moratorium on the eviction of small businesses and nonprofits. Announced March 18, Durkan's emergency order bans evictions until the emergency ends or for 60 days. The city council still needs to weigh in.
- A city-built takeout and delivery map for Seattle. If you're a restaurant, brewery, cafe, or bar, make sure you're on it.
- Information on the CARES ACT providing immediate cash payments and enhanced unemployment benefits. The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that Congress passed on March 27 has billions of dollars set aside for workers. By mid-April, individual workers who have earned less than $75,000 annually (per their 2019 or 2018 tax returns) will receive cash payments of $1,200 a piece directly from the government. Those in the $75,000 to $99,000 range will get incrementally less. Couples will receive an additional $500 per child. Unemployment has been extended by 13 weeks and increased by $600 per week. And gig workers, freelancers, and self-employed workers are now eligible for unemployment benefits through the end of the year.
- Washington State Employment Security Department's FAQ about unemployment benefits. This chart describes how certain situations affect unemployment benefits, though the statewide ban may have made some of the described circumstances obsolete. Here's where you can find information about applying for unemployment benefits online or by phone. The department can also help you job-search after a mass layoff.
- Washington State Employment Security Department's Paid Family and Medical Leave program. All you need to know, right here.
- Information on Seattle's temporary moratorium on residential evictions. On March 14, Durkan announced a 30-day ban on residential evictions related to non-payment or partial payment of rent. On March 17, the city council extended it to a 60-day ban, with the only exceptions for tenant actions that constitute "an an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members." "Pay or vacate" notices and the initiation of eviction actions in court are also banned during that period, as are late fees.
- Deferred payment plans with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle City Light (SCL), and Puget Sound Energy. Utilities will be kept on in Seattle throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Residential customers can set up deferred payment plans with SCL or SPU by calling 206-684-3000 or emailing here. Additionally, residential customers may qualify for the Utility Discount Program, which cuts SCL bills by 60 percent and SPU bills by 50 percent. Check this page to see if you're eligible. Also, gas provider Puget Sound Energy will not be disconnecting customers, instead waiving late fees and offering payment plans.
- Free legal advice. A local Seattle employment law firm, HKM, is offering a legal advice hotline free of charge to employees in Seattle with questions regarding the novel coronavirus and their work. Anyone can call 206-889-6358 or email [email protected] to get answers, which will be posted on the company's site. The firm will also hold a free online roundtable to discuss some of these issues on March 25th at 3pm.