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9,000 apply, 250 get help — Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund $10K grantees include Capitol Hill gallery, Broadway teriyaki joint

Inside E Pike’s Roq La Rue

One of the last remaining dedicated Capitol Hill art galleries, a neighborhood apothecary, a Harvard Market sneaker consignment shop, a Central District postal services shop, and a Broadway teriyaki joint are among local concerns awarded $10,000 each in the first round of Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund grants.

Like most things around the warped impact of COVID-19, the announcement was a sad moment on a brilliantly sunny Seattle Easter Sunday for thousands of businesses including hundreds across Capitol Hill and the Central District left out of the initial award round. The city says some 9,000 shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, and businesses applied. 250 grants were awarded.

The gap demonstrates “that the need goes far beyond what the City can provide without further support from the private sector, philanthropic partners and economic relief from the federal government,” the announcement from Seattle City Hall reads.

Capitol Hill grantees from lottery system that selected qualified businesses include E Pike’s Roq La Rue Gallery, E Pine’s Sugar Pill, Harvard Market sneakerhead paradise Sole Mates, and longtime Broadway standard Teriyaki and Wok.

In the Central District, familiar names include MLK and Union’s The Postman, E Madison’s Simply Soulful, and That Brown Girl Cooks!, the catering business of Communion restaurateur Kristi Brown.

A full list of the first grants is at the end of this post.


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The $2.5 million expanded Small Business Stabilization Fund is funded by federal Community Development Block Grants that require awardees to have five employees or less and for the business owner to be at or below 80% of the Area Median Income. In addition, Mayor Jenny Durkan directed OED “to focus outreach on historically underserved small businesses, and nearly 80% of the 250 grantees identify as small business owners of color.”

“After screening for eligibility, businesses were categorized as being from high or low-displacement areas of the City, and then awardees from each displacement category were selected by lottery,” the city announcement reads. “Weighting the investments towards high-displacement risk areas allowed the City to target businesses that are more likely to experience economic shocks.”

For Kirsten Anderson, owner of E Pike’s more than 20-year-old transplanted gallery Roq La Rue, the grant gives her business a momentary — and very brief — respite:

“We were like, ‘how are we going to make it through?'” she said. “I only make money if I sell art and that completely stopped.”

For Anderson, the money will give her a few more days and weeks to sort out solutions to stay in business. She says she is extremely grateful but, “It’s upsetting. There are so many worthy businesses.” Anderson added that the city made it very clear that the selection of her and the other 249 businesses was based on the random lottery of the qualified applicants. It’s a stroke of luck she needed. And that she would like to see more businesses get the chance at.

“Please do it. The richness of life depends on these small businesses,” she said of the possibility more corporate philanthropy could fund future grant rounds. “You can give and you can look like a good guy now. Or you can not give and you won’t find support later,” Anderson said.

KeAnna Pickett, who co-owns The Postman with her husband D’vonne, tells CHS the $10,000 grant will help the two-year-old Central District business weather the early tumult of the crisis and continue to pay the employees of the MLK Way shop as it continues to offer postal services in the neighborhood.

“We’re not really confident in the federal relief package,” she said. “Other times when we’ve looked into the (Small Business Administration) thing… I don’t know, we’re just not that confident.” Pickett says past experience with federal loan programs have included too much bureaucracy and too many “strings.”

“We worked really hard to get where we are,” she said. “We were told ‘no’ for a long time. We don’t want to go back.”

Pickett says with worries about the future of the United States Postal Service, her business is also even more locally essential.

The funding joins a package of initiatives at Seattle City Hall to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 response including deferred utility payments, a temporary moratorium on evictions, temporary restaurant loading zones to facilitate curbside pickup at restaurants, and a small business relief package that included deferred business taxes. The city has also launched a map to help people keep track of restaurants and businesses remaining open for takeout and delivery of meals.

Meanwhile, a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation includes $349 billion in small business loans with money spent on rent, payroll and utilities becoming grants that don’t need to be paid back. That help is coming but the near-term cash crunch from COVID-19 is here.

Seattle says it hopes to announce future rounds of funding powered by private donations including $50,000 from Comcast “to address the urgent need for future rounds of the Stabilization Fund.”

“This investment will help ensure the Office of Economic Development can continue providing direct capital assistance to small business owners struggling to support their employees and stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the city says. “Interested individuals and organizations can donate to the Stabilization Fund by emailing covidpledge@seattle.gov.”

Beyond possible corporate philanthropy, Seattle is also beginning debate over a new push for a payroll tax on its largest businesses that could raise millions for immediate COVID-19 economic relief.

Picket said she hopes other big businesses are watching the small business grant situation. “It’s important for them to take care of the business that use their services,” she said. “Business really relies on the function of other businesses. That way, the economics can keep thriving.”

“It’s a good time to get a foot in front if you want to be part of changing things for the better,” Pickett said.

A full roster of the 250 small business grantees is below.

CHS COVID-19

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7 thoughts on “9,000 apply, 250 get help — Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund $10K grantees include Capitol Hill gallery, Broadway teriyaki joint

  1. Elementary school arithmetic tells me $10,000/250=$40 each. This helps how? Better than nothing, but a very high level of business failures is in the near term horizon. I’m not impressed.

  2. Or spend the money to fix the unemployment system so that self employed can apply ? We’re only over a month in to zero earnings for most business owners shut down. WA still has no way to file for unemployment.

  3. F-Rock clothing doesn’t have a retail location and their website in which you can “purchase” their clothes isn’t operational. When you move your cart to check out it notifies you it isn’t set up for sales. WTF? I hope someone is verifying all these “businesses” cause $10,000 is a lot of tax payer money to give to people who weren’t actually affected by this.

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