By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Small businesses affected by COVID-19—especially those that had to close due to public health and safety measures—can now apply for up to $25,000 in round four of Working Washington grants.
Award amounts will vary and will take into account previous Working Washington awards received from the Washington State Department of Commerce or affiliated partners.
The Department of Commerce opened applications for the grants on March 29 and Lori Wada of the Seattle-Washington Korean Association said they received over 60 calls on that day.
There have been three previous rounds of grants and Wada told the Northwest Asian Weekly that the Association helped 470 business owners out of more than 700 inquiries.
“When I think about it, I get very emotional,” said Eydie Forte, who is of Korean and Chinese descent, and owns Atomy Center. She was almost seven months behind in rent and had very little income.
“You feel helpless but there’s an opportunity where people are saying, ‘We’re here for you… oh my goodness, I’m so grateful to Asian Cultural Pacific Center (APCC).”
Like Seattle-Washington Korean Association, APCC is a Commerce Small Business Resiliency Network member organization that helps business owners with grant applications.
Forte received $8,000 in grants. She said to other business owners, “You need to do this (apply for the grant). I have never got any help from anyone in my life. There is a time that you need that help so you can rise up again.”
Lua Pritchard, executive director of the APCC, said a lot of the clients APCC deals with “aren’t educated about things” and they are overwhelmed with getting paperwork together to apply for their grants.
“For those who are willing to listen and have an open mind—we can explain things to them and help them through the process.” Pritchard added, “They get very excited once they realize they have a good chance of getting some money.”
Wada said at first, it took some convincing for business owners to apply.
“A lot of them are first generation immigrants—mom and pop operations—and in addition to language barriers, there were technology barriers. Using technology was not ingrained in their daily lives.”
Additionally, there was a lack of trust.
“We didn’t know who was out there, what issues they may have, why they were hesitant to apply—it was chaotic.” Wada said clients were not used to getting help and support from the government.
Sunset Kwon is a technical assistant at Seattle-Washington State Korean Association. She said it has been rewarding to witness business owners apply and succeed because “they never thought they could do it on their own. Through this experience, they were able to gain confidence and courage.”
After successfully submitting an application, Kwon said, “We shouted and celebrated the submission together on the phone by saying ‘Good job!’”
“Once we gained confidence from the business community, we were working seven days a week, 10 hours a day,” said Wada. She estimates around 5,000 businesses statewide are owned by Koreans.
“When the chances (resources) are available, [business owners] can take the opportunities, and strengthen their survivorship in these hard times,” said Kwon.
Jamie Lee, director of community initiatives for the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), said business owners in the Chinatown-International District (ID) were also wary in the beginning.
SCIDpda works alongside Friends of Little Saigon and Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) in helping business owners apply for these grants. So far, 81 ID businesses received grants in three previous rounds.
“We were able to offer language assistance and walk them through the process,” said Lee.
“People are a little more used to it [by now], or have younger family members that are helping them apply for these grants.”
The Washington State Legislature approved $240 million for this fourth round of grants for businesses that were forced to close, lost revenue because of closure, or had added expenses to maintain safe operations and faced significant challenges to paying hard costs. Those hard costs include, but are not limited to, rent, utilities, payroll, or personal protective equipment.
The Department of Commerce—which manages the grants—will determine awards amount based on the size of the business and lost revenue. They will distribute funds equally across the state, focusing on historically underserved and disadvantaged populations. To ensure equitable distribution, the Department of Commerce will consider businesses in rural or low-income communities or ones that are owned by women, veterans, minorities, or members of the LGBTQ+.
Businesses must apply the grant award toward expenses incurred between March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Successful awardees will be notified via email by mid-May.
Over the last year, Washington state has provided small businesses throughout the state with more than $125 million in grants to address the economic outfall of COVID-19.
Business owners can find information about the program and a link to the application portal at commercegrants.com.
The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. on April 9.
You can call (206) 333-0720 for assistance in Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese from 9 a.m.–2 p.m., 3–7 p.m. Monday–Friday, and 1–6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call (855) 602-2722 for English.
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.