Our hearts go out to the many individuals and businesses in Whatcom County impacted by the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Employers of all sizes and sectors should carefully monitor the situation and take steps to protect the health of their workers, their clients, and their businesses. Please remember, it is important to document business impacts as the situation is unfolding, both for insurance purposes and for future relief efforts by state and federal agencies. There are a growing number of resources for our business community to stay informed and prepared (some of which are listed below).
- Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood issued a proclamation of local emergency due to COVID-19. Additional orders were signed extending payment deadlines for City utility, B & O tax and lease payments, and waiving corresponding late penalties.
- Port of Bellingham Economic Development Recovery webpage
New business assistance grants for food and beverage industry businesses in the City Center and Fairhaven districts.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: October 7, 2020 at 11:59PM.
The City has approved several applications for street closures or partial lane closures through the temporary right-of-way use permit process. These permits have been issued to accommodate temporary outdoor seating and uses for businesses adapting to COVID-19 related safety restrictions. The following street closures have been approved:
Holly Street plaza (downtown): The original permit, which was slated to expire October 31, 2020, has been extended through the end of the year to accommodate holiday-related business activity and programming.
10th Street (Fairhaven): The lane closure is permitted through July 2021, but is only being used intermittently by the Fairhaven Association and adjacent businesses.
Grand Avenue (downtown): The permit for the lane closure, originally authorized until October 31, 2020, has been extended through Phase IV of COVID-related health restrictions
Champion Street (downtown): The permit for the lane reconfiguration (no closures) is authorized through Phase IV of COVID-related health restrictions
Following a comprehensive review of 628 applications for the Whatcom ReStart business grant, 269 top-tier applicants that were impacted by COVID-19 were identified for $2.5 million grant funding.
The maximum grant amount was $15,000. Whatcom County and the cities of Bellingham, Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack and Sumas all contributed CARES Act funds to the grant program and each played an integral role in identifying the top applicants in their respective jurisdictions. In total, 269 businesses will be receiving grants made possible by CARES Act funds pooled by the County and cities to boost economic recovery.
As noted in below, the application scoring criteria was based on three assessment categories: Adaptivity/Business Strength (40%), Impact/Need (40%) and Community Contribution (20%).
- City of Bellingham Small Business Grant Awardees
- City Center and Fairhaven Ground-floor Business Grant Awardees
For more information or questions contact email@example.com.
The City has an established permit process for use of the sidewalk and right-of-way for commercial purposes. Businesses who need additional space to accommodate reopening under COVID protocols are encouraged to use this tool to expand into the sidewalk and street, provided safety and passage for pedestrians can be maintained/enhanced. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some businesses have coordinated on proposals for full block closures or modifications. The City supports these temporary uses to support business activity during the COVID-19 related restrictions and safety protocols. Limitations on the maximum number of displaced parking stalls have been lifted during the Mayor’s Executive Order.
The Green Cone Program is a collaboration between the City of Bellingham, Historic Fairhaven District and Downtown Bellingham Partnership. The cones provide a visual cue showing customers which restaurants and retail businesses are operating and open in Fairhaven and Downtown. Check out the flyer for more information.
On March 20, Mayor Fleetwood ordered the following relief measures take effect immediately to help ease financial pressure created by COVID-19 response:
- Offering payment plans, waiving late payment penalties and suspending water shutoffs for approximately 27,000 utility customers, ensuring no customers face having their water and sewer services disrupted due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19.
- Waiving or reducing rent for small businesses and nonprofits leasing City properties, including leased space in the downtown parking structure, at Boulevard Park, the Sportsplex, and other City properties. This applies to tenants whose ability to pay rent is negatively impacted by the reduced economic activity levels associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Allowing businesses that file quarterly to defer first and second quarter business and occupation (B&O) tax returns and payments until October 31, 2020
- Whatcom Unified Command: Whatcom Unified Command’s website has listed out business resources in our community: https://whatcomcovid.com/businesses-restaurants/
- SBDC: The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has stepped up to act as the local hub for resources, including resiliency planning, links to local, regional and national agencies that provide up to date information, and more. We suggest you bookmark the SBDC Corona virus page. They are ready to help your business now. Get started with SBDC’s Resiliency Guide: SMALL BUSINESS RESILIENCY GUIDE
- Washington State Department of Commerce: The Washington State Department of Commerce https://www.commerce.wa.gov/ has resources available and links to the Small Business Association’s (SBA) Disaster Relief program. The SBDC can also help you with the SBA loan process.
- Employment Security Department: The Employment Security Department of Washington State has programs for both individuals and businesses, and a side-by-side comparison chart of possible COVID-19 scenarios and benefits available: EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DEPARTMENT and COVID-19 SCENARIOS CHART
Washington state launched a new online system for fielding essential business inquiries. This portal is the best place for businesses and stakeholders to get clarification and/or submit a request for inclusion under the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy proclamation.