City of Kent to award $4,500 grants to small businesses for COVID-19 relief

Application process runs July 13-27

As many as 200 or more small businesses could receive grants of $4,500 each from the city of Kent to help with economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city will pay for a total of $1 million in grants from a $3.8 million grant it received from the state Department of Commerce through the federal CARES Act. Kent will hold on to about $2.8 million of the grant to cover costs to the city because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are trying to help with a significant enough amount, and cover businesses that did not receive other funds,” said Bill Ellis, city economic development manager, during a June 23 report to the City Council’s Committee of the Whole.

The application process opens at 10 a.m. Monday, July 13, on the city website. Applications must be completed by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, July 27. Applicants will be notified about the grant awards in mid-August.

To be eligible for a Kent Small Business Emergency Relief Grant, a business must:

• Be a for-profit business physically located within the Kent city limits

• Be negatively impacted by COVID-19 closures and interruptions

• Have no more than 15 full-time employees

• Have been in business for at least three years as of June 30, 2020

• Have gross annual revenues of $1.5 million or less

• Have a current city of Kent business license and not be delinquent in payment of taxes or fees owned to the city of Kent as of Dec. 31, 2019.

• If closed due to government mandates, the business intends to reopen when allowed under Washington’s Safe Start plan

• Have received no other COVID-19 related aid from government programs

• Have no owner, officer, partner, or principal actor of the business who is currently employed by city of Kent or who is an immediate family member (spouse, sibling) of a current city of Kent employee

• Have no owner, officer, partner, or principal actor of the business involved with financial mismanagement. This includes the business owner(s) with any conviction(s) for financial crimes within the last three years, with “business owner” defined as managing members or officers

• Not currently in bankruptcy

Ellis said the city views $4,500 as a notable amount.

“There will never be enough money to replace lost revenue for four months or cover enough businesses, so not everyone will receive grant funds,” Ellis said. “But we have lower barriers to applications, and will work hard on outreach so the pool reflects as much as possible the community at large.”

The city modeled its program after a similar King County program to unincorporated King County businesses, as far as the application materials and how to funnel money to those most impacted, Ellis said.

“Our focus is more on the mom and pop businesses that are up on taxes, have been in business at least three years and have not received other grants,” Ellis said.

Businesses that received funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program of Small Business Administration injury disaster loan or grants are ineligible.

The city hired Seattle-based Craft3, a regional nonprofit that specializes in loans to small businesses in Oregon and Washington, to oversee the distribution of funds. As a third party, Craft3 will sort hundreds of applications, select the businesses and send them checks or direct deposit funds. The company has contracted with other cities and counties on similar contracts. Kent will pay Craft3 a fee of 8.7% or about $87,000 handle the $1 million in grants.

City staff expects the grant to help a lot of small businesses.

“This is written to be a reimbursement of cost during COVID-19,” Ellis said. “It is to use as a quick cash stimulus, sort of a helicopter drop of money like the $1,200 stimulus checks (from the federal government) to people.”

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