On Monday, Seattle announced the recipients of its Small Business Stabilization Fund, which gives $10,000 to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. More than 9,000 businesses applied, and 250 received grants, including the International District’s Hood Famous Cafe and Bar, acclaimed catering company (and soon-to-be-restaurant) That Brown Girl Cooks, and Central District Ethiopian mainstay Meskel.
In March, the city poured about $2.5 million into the fund, which existed before the coronavirus crisis began, but was expanded as one of the measures to help businesses endure the rapid economic fallout from the pandemic. To qualify for the grants, applicants needed to have five or fewer employees, and the business owner had to be at or below 80 percent of the city’s median income, per federal block grant guidelines.
To generate awareness for the fund, Mayor Jenny Durkan directed the Office of Economic Development to target neighborhoods where there has been a high level of displacement, while focusing on underserved communities. Nearly 80 percent of the grantees are businesses owned by people of color, according to the mayor’s office. Because of such a high volume of applicants, the city held a lottery to select the recipients from the pool.
The grants come at a time when the larger coronavirus-related federal stimulus package passed by Congress has come under fire for a messy launch and low caps for loans, while also leaving many smaller restaurants doubting whether it will help at all. In that vein, the immediate cash infusion from smaller restaurants, cafes, and bars will surely be welcome.
“This will allow us to pay some of our past due business expenses, while we work on a plan to reopen,” Greg Wetzel, co-owner of South Lake Union’s Zheng Cafe, tells Eater Seattle, who adds that he has also received a $2,500 grant from Amazon and has applied for the federal SBA loan (but to no avail so far). “The grants will keep the lights on for now.”
But this is just one small step in bringing relief to Seattle restaurants, as $10,000 isn’t likely to last very long in a city where that may barely cover a single month of rent, utilities, and other costs in retail spaces. Plus, the staggering number of applicants for this fund highlights the urgent need small businesses have for an economic lifeline at this time. The city says it hopes to announce future rounds of grants, fueled by the private sector as well as the nonprofit world. Comcast recently pledged $50,000 for the fund.
Below are some of the notable restaurant recipients for the current round of grants. Here’s the full list.
- Small Business Stabilization Fund [Office of Economic Development]
- Seattle Restaurants and Chefs Voice Concerns Over Aspects of Federal Stimulus Bill [ESEA]