New state grant offers $10,000 for small businesses

SEATTLE -- On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new $5 million grant to help struggling small businesses in Washington survive. But even as he announced it, he acknowledged it's not enough.

"I'll be blunt about this, what we're going to talk about today is only just the start of what we need to do," Inslee said. "We know we have a long economic recovery ahead of us."

The grant will give up to $10,000 to each business that's selected, which means it can extend to a minimum of 500 small establishments. Businesses cannot have more than 10 employees and must use the money for operational expenses. Businesses in need will need to apply through a local economic development organization, like a chamber of commerce.

"We filled out the application and we're getting ready to submit it," Cindy Martin said. Her and her husband Charlie own Seattle Pinball Museum, a unique, interactive, kinetic art museum with pinball machines a plenty to play with.

For the past decade, they've brought the unique business model to Seattle's International District, a neighborhood that was among the first to feel the economic pain of prejudice when the novel coronavirus was first spreading in China. The pain deepened when the governor asked non-essential businesses to close.

Cindy Martin said they tried to keep paying their employees, three full time and one part time, after they stopped taking customers. But 10 days later, it was clear they couldn't sustain the expense. Their employees, whom they refer to as family, are on standby. The Martins are still paying for their healthcare.

The day came when the Martins had to board up the store. With tears in his eyes, Charlie Martin said it was a heartbreaking decision.

"We may be down but we're not out," he said. "Just when you tilt a machine, doesn't mean it's game over. You step up, you plunge that ball and you go again. That's what we're going to do, we are going to go again."

In the meantime, the Protective Arts Collective covered up the pain of seeing the boarded-up windows with a painted mural, which brings the Martins some joy during a difficult time.

The Martins said they've applied for federal and local grants and loans but have yet to hear back. Now they plan to apply for the new state grant Inslee announced Tuesday.

For now, they're being patient and promising to plunge back into business when all of this is over, bringing nostalgia and joy back to Seattle.

"We're in a big boat with a lot of other people," Charlie Martin said. "Sooner or later, our paperwork will come across somebody's desk. We just have to be patient and be hopeful and see what happens."