Latest round of $70 million in state pandemic relief assists 3,787 small businesses
Grants provide relief to businesses in all 39 Washington counties
OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce, in partnership with the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA), has distributed $70 million in grants to 3,787 for-profit and nonprofit small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Funding provided through the Working Washington Grants: Round 5 and Convention Center Grant program is assisting businesses in all 39 Washington counties, including $42 million awarded to nearly 1,500 in the cultural sector.
While many small businesses have been slow to recover fully, those that depend on conventions and conferences, like many nonprofits and cultural businesses, took particularly staggering and sustained losses from the pandemic. The Convention Center Grant program provided grants ranging from $5,505 to $400,000 to 37 of these businesses. See map (webpage).
The 3,750 Working Washington 5 grants ranged from $500 to $75,000. See map (webpage).
In both programs, every eligible application received some level of funding. These grants are transformational for some organizations, like the Walla Walla Valley Band.
“When COVID hit, our board decided to offer our concerts free of charge to the community. This meant lost revenue for the band, but we looked upon it as our ‘gift’ to area music lovers during a time of trial,” said Glen Mitchell, who serves on Walla Walla Valley Band’s Board of Directors. “The Working Washington grant helped us recoup this loss of revenue and easily meet our other financial obligations. Thanks to this grant, music remains alive here in Southeastern Washington!”
Statewide reach was essential to the program’s success: funding reached all 39 counties of Washington state. In economically distressed counties, 475 businesses received $8.5 million in grants. More than 70% of Round 5 awardees self-identified as coming from historically disadvantaged communities, who often experienced more profound hardship from the pandemic.
“Artists, cultural organizations and small businesses in historically marginalized communities were hit particularly hard as revenue generated through ticket sales and sponsorships dried up during the pandemic’s first two years,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “We have worked tirelessly with our partners to ensure that this essential part of the economy can continue adding to the rich culture and diversity for which Washington state is known.”
“Our creative businesses need this financial support,” said Karen Hanan, Executive Director of ArtsWA. “Arts, heritage, and science organizations are the heart of our communities and our economy. We have more work to do, but the success of Working Washington Grants: Round 5 is a cause for celebration.”
Seattle-based musician Julia Massey underscored the impact of the pandemic on independent artists.
“Many people might not realize that live shows are the primary revenue stream for musicians. During the pandemic, some of my creative peers were asking on social media for help to pay rent,” said Massey, whose band was a Working Washington Grants: Round 5 awardee. “Independent artists, like small business owners, have a menu of things that constantly need to be addressed. This grant will allow us to dream bigger.”
The success of Working Washington and Convention Center Grant programs means that small businesses across multiple industries—hospitality, arts and entertainment, retail, transportation, construction, agriculture, and beyond—can face the future with greater confidence and fuel the economic and cultural vitality of Washington state.
Next round opening in March
A new round of approximately $100 million in relief funding is expected in March, targeted to small businesses in the hospitality sector. More information on this and past funding rounds is at Emergency Grants | Washington State Department of Commerce (commercegrants.com).