Seattle announces $5M in grants for restaurant, bar workers and hospitality industry

 Seattle city officials on Friday announced a $5 million economic stimulus plan that will provide grant relief to workers in the hospitality industry along with restaurant and bar staffers, two sectors that have been struggling in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns implemented to help contain the virus.

The Seattle City Council is expected to consider the plan during its meeting on Monday.

According to a written statement released by the city, $2.5 million of the grant money will be disbursed to small businesses, targeting restaurants and bars, and the other $2.5 million slated for hospitality workers.“These emergency grants are intended to provide a lifeline to small businesses and workers most recently impacted," Durkan said in the statement, adding that she hoped Congress will move forward with a national economic stimulus aid package. "While these grants are a necessary aid, ultimately, real relief must come from the federal government. Congress must act next week to finally pass an overdue COVID-19 relief package. Every day they fail to act, more small businesses close their doors for good, and more workers lose their jobs.”

"This is an excellent step by the city of Seattle that reflects what workers already know: economic security and public health are closely linked," said Rachel Lauter, executive director of Working Washington and Fair Work Center, in a written statement. "The $2.5 million in direct cash relief will make a substantial difference in ensuring that workers on the front lines of this crisis have the resources they need to stay safe, stay healthy, and protect their health."

For small businesses, the city will identify potential recipients from applicants who have applied through its Small Business Stabilization Fund, according to the news release. The most recent round of SBSF grants closed on Nov. 30, and the city said 1,100 restaurant or bar owners applied for grants.

The city said all eligible applicants will receive grants to support continuing operations, including outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery. Restaurants and bars who receive grants through this newest round will remain eligible for future grant awards of up to $10,000 from the SBSF fund.

"We applaud the Mayor and Council for recognizing the impact to our bars, restaurants and their employees, and providing important grants to help them during the pandemic," a spokesperson for the Seattle Restaurant Alliance said in a written statement. "These grants will be extremely helpful, and yet the impact and need is far greater than can be addressed at the local level."

The $2.5 million in grants for hospitality workers will be in the form of cash assistance to those who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city said.

To be eligible for a grant, workers would need to demonstrate that they have been financially impacted by the pandemic, through a layoff or reduction in hours. Cash assistance will be determined commensurate to need, up to $1,000, with higher amounts going to those who are housing insecure, according to the city statement.

The City’s Human Services Department will rely on a third-party agency to conduct the application process and distribute the grants. The city is expected to announce more information on the application process in coming days.

“Restaurants and bars are central to Seattle’s soul," said Jessica Tousignant, executive director of Seattle Restaurants United. "The COVID-19 pandemic is crippling our small business community, and local restaurants and bars are doing their part to stem the spread of the virus as we all endure this unprecedented challenge. I am glad to see the City stepping up and providing immediate relief to restaurants and bars and their workers."

Union leaders for the area's hospitality industry also praised the move.

"We applaud Seattle’s leadership for setting aside funds to support hospitality workers who have suffered such severe losses through this pandemic," a spokesperson for Local 8 said in a statement. "This demonstrates real leadership by Mayor Durkan, Council President Gonzalez, and Councilmembers Mosqueda, and Morales."

The Seattle Office of Economic Development is offering technical support to small businesses who plan to apply for the grants. For assistance, email or call 206-684-8090.

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