Seattle’s small businesses and nonprofits hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis got a small boost Monday as the City Council passed legislation that freezes their rents and enacts a ban on commercial eviction during the crisis in the form of negotiated “payment plan” requirements.
The legislation follows Mayor Jenny Durkan’s order prohibiting “the eviction of a small business or nonprofit tenant for non-payment of rent or because an existing lease terminated during the civil emergency period.”
“Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and those forced to shut down are worried they won’t be able to restart their businesses after the initial crisis is over,” West Seattle representative Lisa Herbold said about the passage of her bill:
This legislation complements the city’s moratorium on small business evictions already in place, alleviates financial pressures such as rent increases, and gives certainty to small businesses and nonprofits. In the West Seattle Junction, I’ve heard reports that landlord communication has ranged from full abatement for some businesses to ‘sorry we need to pay our mortgage’ requiring 100% of the full rent due for other businesses.
The legislation applies to nonprofits, and to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have been closed due to public orders or that have seen at least a 30% drop in business.
Landlords will be required to work out payment plans with small business and nonprofit tenants for up to six months after the end of the civil emergency. Repayment plans must not require the tenant to pay more than 1/3 of late rent within any month or period, and the repayment schedule must require that all late rent will be repaid within a year of the end of the civil emergency with “no late fees, interest or other charges.”
Also Monday, Seattle announced its first round of Small Business Stabilization Fund $10,000 grants to qualifying small businesses chosen in a weighted lottery. 9,000 applied. 250 were selected. The city says it hopes to mount future rounds with the help of private and corporate donations.
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