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Financial assistance available for Auburn small businesses

To soften the impact of COVID-19 as much as possible on small businesses and their employees in Auburn, the Auburn City Council has committed $759,000 in one-time federal funds to create a Small Business Assistance Grant Program.

The goal is to offer immediate financial assistance to small businesses in the city to help them maintain their enterprises and keep their employees.

“The money is coming from two sources, but it all starts with CARES Act money from the federal government that went to every state,” said Doug Lein, economic development director for the city.

The Washington Department of Commerce gave the money it received directly to cities and counties based on population numbers. The department gave Auburn $2.4 million to use in several ways.

There were certain allowable items that the city could recoup and use as part of its normal budget, Lein said.

“The $650,000 that remained, the city council approved to do a grant program directly to businesses, and the federal government allowed that,” Lein said. “It’s federal money, not state money.”

“King County had to do the same thing as we did,” Lein continued. “There were certain things where they could keep the money as reimbursables, same as us, and monies they couldn’t spend as reimbursables, they gave to cities, in our case $109,ooo and some change. So we ended up with $759,000 that we could use for grants directly to businesses.”

The city council approved the grant program for $650,000 from the money it got through the DOC, and of the budget on the $109,000, $90,000 is being used for business grants, and about $20,000 will be used to buy personal protective equipment like hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves. The city will work with the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce to give those items away for free to local businesses, Lein said.

Eligible grant recipients will receive a grant award of $1,300. After the initial funds are depleted, the city will keep applications received and track the order in which they were received. More grants could be awarded if additional funds become available, Lein said.

At a minimum, businesses eligible to apply for grant funds from the city must meet the following criteria:• Have a physical presence within a commercial zone within the city. Home-based businesses do not qualify.• Be in good standing to include having a current city business license, be current on all state and regulatory requirements and facing pending litigation or legal action, including shoreline code enforcement;

• Be a for-profit business established before Jan. 1, 2020.

• Have 10 or fewer employees, as indicated on the city’s business license application.

• Have been adversely impacted by mandatory and/or voluntary business closures directly related to the public health response related to COVID-19;• Have selected food service, manufacturing, retail, wholesale or other for “type” of business on the city business license application.

The city has also determined that the following types of businesses do not qualify:

• Professional services: tax preparation and services, attorney or legal services, accounting services, bookkeeping services, financial services or environmental services.

• Retail: Convenience stores with gas stations, pawn shops, vehicle accessories sales, landscape supply sales, online sales (as primary source of sales), construction supply sales, commercial or residential paint stores and drive-through coffee stands.

•Automotive services: maintenance shops, car dealerships with maintenance/service; automotive accessories sales or service, and automotive paint shops.

• Medical: family physicians/doctors, primary care, dentists, orthodontics, natural health doctors’ offices and veterinarians;• Food: whole food sales and distribution.• Distribution companies, construction, construction subcontractors and construction supplies and material sales.

Local businesses can download the Small Business Assistance Grant Application (PDF) on the city’s website.

The application deadline is 5 p.m. Aug. 15, 2020. Awards will be made on a first come, first-served basis.

For information, email: or call the Office of Economic Development at 253-804-3101. Inquiries by email are highly encouraged because city staff has continuous access to email. Because of shelter-in-place orders, there is limited staff available at City Hall to respond to phone inquiries, and responses may be delayed.

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