Emergency grants for local owners
The Town of Winthrop will devote a significant portion of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds it received to small business emergency grants.
Okanogan County, along with towns and cities in the county, received CARES Act funds awarded to the state to address COVID-19-related costs the jurisdictions incur. The Town of Winthrop will receive $25,000.
The funds are flexible, allowing cities and counties to use their allocation for everything from public health and human services expenses to small business and economic support.
At last week’s Town Council meeting, Mayor Sally Ranzau suggested earmarking $10,000 to $15,000 of the town’s CARES act to fund small business emergency grants of $1,500.
The grants would be solely for businesses within Winthrop, and would be administered through the TwispWorks Small Business Emergency Grant program. Town Clerk Michelle Gaines said Brewster and Omak have similar agreements with the Economic Alliance, which is administering grants to small businesses for the towns.
Ranzau said the town has spent about $7,000 of the $25,000 grant on hand sanitizing stations, air filters for town hall, and a couple of laptop computers.
A total of 25 small businesses have received emergency funds through the grant program, which was launched by TwispWorks to help local businesses impacted by the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants provide $1,500 to businesses to help them pay rent, utilities, and other fixed expenses, as well as helping them develop ways to become more resilient.
The Small Business Emergency Grant program has raised money and distributed $37,500 during two grant cycles. The program has sought to include a variety of businesses. Priority was given to businesses that hadn’t received other forms of state or federal financial assistance, or that don’t qualify for existing programs.
In other COVID-related news, Ranzau reported that she intended to distribute 4,000 surgical masks the town received from Okanogan County Search and Rescue to local businesses. She said town staff are working on where to distribute the hand sanitizing stations the town acquired with CARES Act funds.
“I have been noticing more people wearing masks downtown,” Ranzau said.
During the council comments portion of the meeting, councilmember William Kilby said he had received a couple of suggestions from constituents. One would be to increase signage coming into town, asking visitors to wear masks.
Another idea was to hire “mask ambassadors” — perhaps high school students in need of summer work — to walk around town offering masks to visitors.
Ranzau said she would be concerned that such an effort would “encounter resistance.”
“It could lead to confrontations,” she said.
Regarding complaints about local businesses not adhering to the state’s Phase II guidelines for gradually restoring the economy, Ranzau said she refers those to the state Labor and Industries Department, which has the authority to levy fines.
The town is not issuing citations to businesses, Ranzau said.
In other business, the council:
• Formally adopted a resolution allowing town staff to waive $10 late fees for utility payments for the April, May, June, and July billing cycles.
• Approved an amended agreement with Okanogan County under which the county’s public works department will do chip sealing on several Winthrop streets, including Norfolk Avenue, Sundown Road, Saddleback Road, Bridge Street, Englar Street, and Corral Street. Gaines said the $54,414 contract represents cost savings by having the county do the work.