BI looks at grants to help local businesses hurt by COVID

Some Kitsap cities have already incorporated such a program

With many local and small businesses suffering to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bainbridge Island City Council is considering an Economic Recovery Grants program, something other Kitsap municipalities have already implemented.

“Conversations with island businesses have demonstrated strong support for a direct grant program,” city documents state.

The city’s Business Recovery Subcommittee proposed leveraging and following Bremerton’s Phase 3 program with modifications as needed to fit Bainbridge’s needs.

The budget for the program would be $200,000 worth of grants to island businesses, $5,000 for grant administration delegated to Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (the entity that administered the Bremerton program), and $5,000 for outdoor venue purchases (heating lamps, tents) on behalf of businesses that request them.

The total budget would be $210,000 from the General Fund, not to exceed staff reimbursement of CARES funding received by the city. Federal CARES funding provides $150 billion of assistance for state, local and tribal governments navigating the impact of the pandemic.

“It’s going to make it so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Councilmember Leslie Schneider said about following Bremerton’s model. “We really like their program, we feel it’s closest to what we would have organically come up with. We just want to move this process forward as fast as we can.”

For the first round of grants, $5,000 would be given per business. If funding remains then grantees and new businesses could re-apply for a cumulative total of $10,000 — first-come-first-served, according to city documents.

“We could combine phase 1 and phase 2 to make it simpler,” Schneider said. “We want to give as many applicants the $5,000 if we can.”

To be eligible, the business must have opened on or before Jan. 1, 2020. The council will discuss the grant program at a future meeting.

Businesses targeted for the relief include for-profit or nonprofit storefront (customer walk-in) restaurants, retail, salon and gyms in Winslow, along with neighborhood centers. Funding eligibility for businesses include:

  • Business must show a minimum 25% overall decrease in revenue for Q2-Q4 2020 compared with the same quarters in 2019. If the business wasn’t operating for full comparison then an average of all operating months leading up to Q2-Q4 2020 may be used.
  • All relief grants must be reported and will offset that loss
  • Any remaining loss is eligible to be covered by this new grant program

Jurisdictions such as Poulsbo, Kitsap County and Bremerton have allocated significant CARES funds to business recovery grants. Poulsbo helped 23 businesses using $180,000 out of $550,000 total CARES funding, while Bremerton helped 86 businesses with grants up to $10,000 using $580,000 of CARES funding. In general, businesses that qualified for this relief were storefronts such as restaurants, retail, and walk-in services, according to city documents. Additionally, Poulsbo purchased outdoor heaters, bistro furniture and tents for restaurants.