After numerous amendments, council closer to approving plan for Edmonds CARES Act funds

Councilmembers listened to citizen comments for the first time since moving to the Zoom platform in March.

After a four-plus-hour meeting that included numerous amendments to a plan that will guide City of Edmonds spending of $1.2 million in federal CARES Act funding, the Edmonds City Council decided  Tuesday night to wait until next week to approve the final document.

“I think it will be best for us to come back next week and see a clean copy,” Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said in a statement that drew agreement from the group as the clock neared 11:30 p.m.

The council already faced a full docket, but due to the length of the CARES Act discussion, had to set most of the other agenda items aside for future meetings. Tuesday night’s meeting also marked the first evening of taking remote live public comment from citizens since the council moved to Zoom in March, and three Edmonds business owners were present to offer their opinions on how the CARES Act money should be used.

The CARES Act package presented to the council Tuesday night was a revised version based on suggestions made at last week’s Edmonds City Council meeting. Mayor Mike Nelson had initially called for $800,000 of the federal allocation to be distributed to Edmonds “storefront” businesses severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — and the rest to reimburse the city for its coronavirus-related expenses.

The mayor’s revised proposal offered Tuesday night included less money ($700,000) for businesses and — in response to council feedback during the June 9 meeting — a new human services-focused program of $300,000 for housing and supplemental relief. And $265,100 was included to reimburse the city for unbudgeted COVID-19 costs.

In addition, the latest CARES proposal included reallocating to the housing relief fund up to $50,000 that was initially earmarked for a potential second round of funding for the Chamber Foundation WISH business grant program. This $350,000 in new money would be added to an earlier city council-created $100,000 housing and supplemental relief program, for a total of $450,000.

The CARES Act housing relief fund, which would help qualified Edmonds residents with rent or other emergency needs, was originally proposed to be distributed via grants of up to $1,000 for all applicant households. A council amendment by Laura Johnson Tuesday changed that amount to awards of up to $1,000 per family of two or fewer and $1,500 for families of three or more.

That amendment was one of many made by councilmembers Tuesday night. Others approved  included the following:

– Use any leftover CARES Act funds (which must be accounted for by Oct. 31 of this year to ensure federal government reimbursement) to purchase personal protective equipment for city employees and community care centers, such as assisted living facilities.

– Delete the word “storefront” in describing businesses eligible for CARES Act funds, to broaden the pool of eligible businesses.

– Change the size of eligible businesses from those with two to 30 employees to those with 0 to 30 part- and full-time combined employees, which would encompass sole proprietors and also increase the number of eligible businesses.

– Prioritize allocating grant money to businesses that have either received no other federal or state grant money or received less grant money than they requested.

– Require monthly and annual reports that include details about the grant award process.

– Include an additional Snohomish County organization to administer the CARES Act grant allocations. This would be in addition to the two organizations — Snohomish County-based Washington Kids in Transition and King County-based Wellspring Family Services — that were selected to administer the council’s already-approved housing relief fund.

There were unsuccessful attempts by Councilmembers Vivian Olson and Kristiana Johnson to reallocate some of the human services funding back to small businesses, with the idea that residents were already benefiting from several other city-based grant programs approved in recent weeks. In addition, there was an attempt by Kristiana Johnson to reallocate the $125,000 remaining in the  city’s Homelessness Response Fund to the housing fund, to replenish what was proposed to be shifted back to the small business grant fund. But that measure was opposed by councilmembers who said they wanted to keep that homelessness fund viable for possible future needs.

The majority of councilmembers were also generally opposed to the idea of moving money from the $300,000 in proposed CARES Act housing relief, especially since City Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty noted that the city has already received a total of 94 grant applications for the earlier-established $100,000 housing relief fund.

In other action Tuesday night, the council approved a contract change order for up to $135,400 for the Dayton Street utility replacement project. The change involves a different reconstruction process for the area of 6th to 8th avenues to ensure longer pavement life and less maintenance.

Councilmembers also heard a brief presentation on bond funding costs to replace the city’s wastewater treatment plant incinerator, but a full discussion on that item was postponed to a future meeting due to the lateness of the hour. Also delayed was a presentation of the city’s newly created Community Services Resource Guide.

— By Teresa Wippel

8 Replies to “After numerous amendments, council closer to approving plan for Edmonds CARES Act funds”

  1. Very glad and relieved to read that the Council amended the language to include sole proprietorship (0 employees) and dropped the need for having a storefront. We need to support ALL the small businesses in Edmonds through this very rough time.

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  2. I don’t understand the connection between the COVID crisis and selection criteria 1, 4, and 5 listed below. Can anyone step me through the logic?

    “In addition, given the likelihood of a competitive grant award process, the following,
    nonexclusive selection criteria will be employed:

    i. Particular consideration will be given to businesses owned by people of color, women,
    veterans, and other minorities;
    ii. Particular consideration will be given to those businesses that have received, or expect
    to receive, no or relatively lower amounts of other government assistance;
    iii. Greater consideration will be given to those businesses that have experienced relatively
    greater business/revenue loss year-over-year in April or May 2020;
    iv. Geographic distribution across Edmonds’ various business districts will be given
    particular consideration in the award of these grants;
    v. Particular consideration will be given to creative-sector businesses within the State certified
    Edmonds Creative District;”

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    1. Hey Nate, those criteria came from the administration but here are my personal thoughts:

      1. our communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID (chart near bottom: http://www.snohd.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=310), and that does not necessarily include discrimination toward Asian businesses during the pandemic, like we saw on 99. Additionally, WMBE (Women and Minority-Owned Business Enterprises) often have more difficulty with contracts, procurement, and federal aid programs (like with PPP and the SBA related to COVID: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/sba-ppp-ig-report/).

      4. There is often a downtown, bowl-centric focus. I think it’s important that we get more support to businesses located throughout the city, in all neighborhoods.

      5. Director Doherty spoke to this on Tuesday night so the minutes will probably be more accurate than my notes here. My recollection: since it is a state-recognized program there is an ongoing desire to encourage/support creative sector businesses and potentially draw future investment by continuing to promote the Creative District.

      Hope this is helpful! -L

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      1. Luke, thanks for the response. I know you’re doing your best to help accelerate Edmonds’ economic recovery. I’m just asking that you explicitly state your thinking (and make the administration explicitly state their thinking) on these issues. Personally, I’m of the mindset that the only question that should matter when we distribute COVID funds should be, where can it have the most economic impact?

        I think that business location, business type, and business ownership are just distractions to that question and invites politics into this crisis recovery conversation.

        Your responses don’t really hold up to scrutiny either. The graph provided shows that non-Caucasian/ non-Asians have a lower share of COVID cases, but how does that relate to businesses performance? Even if the data showed a correlation, how is that impact not captured in criteria 2 and 3?

        Downtown and HWY 99 are where a majority of our storefront businesses are. These businesses employee the majority of people, drive tourism/ visits, and have a spillover/ multiplication effect on our economy. I’m not saying these are the most important businesses in Edmonds, but the criteria proposed actually punishes them.

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      2. Luke,
        Business owners and Artists, they are creative, they inspire, they think, they design, they act, they make the Art, or inspire. The moniker of a Creative District, is and of itself, nothing but word gravel.

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    2. # i above, A woman owned business is more important than a business owned by a man? That fly’s in direct contradiction to every Federal Discrimination Law on the books. I think it is also Federally Illegal to ask a person’s: sex, religion, or race on any application. But Edmonds has a highly paid law firm who should be able to supply the Taxpayers of Edmonds with the Federal Statute where being forced to supply that information is legal. But then too judge males to a lesser value, now you just violated Federal Law again. You can not discriminate, regardless of: sex, color, religion, or age, but City Hall in Edmonds seems to want to. With those actions, Edmonds will have just opened itself up to a Federal Discrimination lawsuit, with some really really big teeth.

      I thought Edmonds just made a proclamation about discrimination, and how they are going to attack it, regardless of where it happens, even on a National level. Didn’t need to look very far.

      #ii above, I could be mistaken, but every business can apply for Pandemic Relief “PUA” from esd.wa, regardless if they pay into unemployment, or not.

      #iii above, Since the city can not break out sales tax data for an individual business, and the State will not supply them with this information. What verification procedures will be enacted which will violate a business owners legal confidentiality rights? Edmonds can not request any sales data from a business owner, only the State can. You can ask a percentage decrease in revenue, but not sales data.

      “Require monthly and annual reports that include details about the grant award process.” Business owners- to protect yourselves, it would be best to set up a seperate sub-checking account in Quick Books, or whatever accounting system you use to (deposit) the grant money into, otherwise it is co-mingled with the owners cash. At which point the identification of payables from the grant money would be left solely up to what a person claims, rather than a direct paper trail, and City Hall could demand a refund of the grant if the city is not satisfied. NOTE— Protect yourselves business owners!!

      And the bottom line is, all of this CARES Act money came via a Grant to the City thru multiple agency steps, from Washington D.C., it was FREE to Edmonds. So, let’s make it as difficult and convoluted as possible, business owners have nothing else to do, they have only been forced to be closed now for months!

      Lastly- Store Fronts, are what make a City. A home based business pays their mortgage, or rent, and operates their business. A commercial business front pays commercial rent, and still has to pay a home rent, or mortgage, and operates their business on top of that. Would a commercial landlord be able to apply if they have a business lisc in Edmonds? So, the landlord gets a grant, while the business paying the landlord rent may be rejected because they are “male owned”, all while someone at home gets a grant. If a homeowner has a business lisc for a VRBO, are they allowed to apply?

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    3. Fairness is not treating everyone equally it is about forcing equal outcomes, that is why the voucher system for distributing the money would never of worked.

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  3. Regarding criteria 1:

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

    A shout out my high school teacher who made me read Orwell’s: Animal Farm in the ninth grade.

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