Seattle program helps small businesses apply for recovery loans as COVID enters next phase

Seattle downtown and Space Needle view, Washington, USA

As the state moves to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror, Seattle’s economic office has prepared $8 million in loans for businesses to start getting back on their feet.

Mayor Bruce Harrell and the Office of Economic Development (OED) on Tuesday announced the Capital Access Program. The program aims to connect small businesses with flexible loans, up to $150,000, to help them with long-term recovery.

Just a month ago, COVID-19 infections had only just started trending down following the omicron surge.

Now, state and local leaders are quickly moving to end mainstay policies of the pandemic, like the eviction moratorium, vaccine verification and mask mandate.

READ MORE: Washingtonians can now order monthly at-home COVID tests

Business looks to return to normal soon, but it has been a long two years for local professionals, many of whom were forced to lay off staff, cut their hours or close down.

This new program is meant to help them get the wheels moving again.

"For a true pandemic recovery, our small businesses must have real support from the City of Seattle, and this new Capital Access Program means significant and tangible resources to make an immediate impact," said Mayor Harrell. "I’ve heard loud and clear that Seattle’s small businesses need financial support — and trust in City government. This new Capital Access Program represents action and proof that we’re listening — an urgent investment of recovery dollars and a real commitment to support thriving small businesses in our City."

The Capital Access Program uses money from the city’s COVID-19 recovery funds to lower the cost of the Washington Small Business Flex Fund. That money pays for 25% of the loan principal, allowing small business owners to borrow up to $150,000 at 4% interest.

Loans can be used for payroll, utilities, rent, supplies, advertising, repairs, construction and other business expenses.

Applications open Mar. 8 and are due Apr. 8 by 5 p.m.

"This new Capital Access Program meets the urgent needs of small businesses trying to recover from the pandemic, especially BIPOC- and immigrant-owned small business owners who often lack sufficient equity to secure loans through regular banks or have greater challenges navigating the loan application process," said Council member Sara Nelson. "Not only will this program help entrepreneurs get a loan, it will also ease their long-term debt obligation. That’s precisely the kind of investment we need to make to help stabilize our struggling small businesses, retain jobs, and reduce displacement in our most vulnerable communities. I applaud Mayor Harrell, OED, and our CDFI partners for their innovative leadership and I look forward to future opportunities for creative collaboration."  

To qualify for the program, a small business must:

  • Be for-profit and located within the Seattle city limits
  • Have experienced direct economic disruption due to COVID-19

It must also meet two of the following three factors:

  • No more than $5 million in annual revenue in 2019 or 2020
  • No more than 50 full-time equivalent employees
  • No more than two locations

To apply for a loan for your business, submit an application on the Small Business Flex Fund website. You can also join a virtual information session, hosted by Business Impact NW, to learn more about successfully applying for funds. You can find times for the virtual sessions here.

Gov. Inslee's COVID state of emergency passes two-year mark

Governor Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 state of emergency was issued Feb. 29, 2020, and has allowed him to implement mask mandates and stay-home orders, fire state employees for not getting vaccinated, and implement phased reopening plans.

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