The GSBA Blog

Seattle Passes COVID Relief & JumpStart Spending Plans

by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
| Jul 20, 2020

Earlier this afternoon two important bills for Seattle’s small businesses passed City Council unanimously. These two bills are counterparts to the JumpStart legislation passed two weeks ago. GSBA has been involved with the authors of both these bills for the last several months and worked hard to ensure that efforts to provide relief to small businesses and nonprofits actually provide significant amounts of the relief that small businesses themselves say they need. 

While we are disappointed that funding to small businesses and nonprofits was not always kept at levels we urged, the efforts funded in both these bills will provide real, concrete help as we work through this unprecedented economic crisis. The needs in our city are immediate and significant, and these efforts will help make a difference. In a survey of our Seattle members, 60% supported the City raising new revenue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and housing crisis. A plurality supported the JumpStart plans specifically.

We want to thank the many hours of work that went into the crafting of these spending plans. In particular, we are deeply appreciative of Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and her office for the months of outreach and partnership that went into these efforts. Additionally, we thank Councilmember Dan Strauss for his work around the Small Business Stabilization Fund and ensuring that it is available to the businesses who are in the greatest need.

Council Bill 119812
This ordinance is the COVID-19 economic relief plan for the remainder of 2020 and 2021, with money from Seattle’s rainy day fund. $86 million will be appropriated to provide support for small businesses, low-income and low-wage individuals and families, immigrants, and refugees. 

This bill adds $14.1 million to the Small Business Stabilization Fund, which will mean $10,000 grants to an additional 1,300 small businesses and nonprofits in Seattle. A separate $3.6 million is set aside specifically to support child care providers, and $300,000 is allocated to support training and technical assistance. An amendment to the bill today changed the eligibility threshold for the Small Business Stabilization Fund, raising business size to 25 FTEs (up from 5 employees), requires an equitable distribution across Seattle neighborhoods, and states that businesses who received funds in the previous round will not be eligible for additional assistance.

Also part of this bill, $36 million will go to immediate housing needs, $18 million to immigrant and refugee support, and $14 million to the Emergency Grocery Voucher program.

Resolution 31957
This resolution is the document showing the intent of how the money raised in the JumpStart Seattle payroll tax will be spent starting in 2022. The City estimates that the payroll tax will raise approximately $219 million per year, the majority of which will be dedicated to low income housing. Overall, the following funding has been allocated:

         Housing and Services - 62% (est. $135 million)
   Equitable Development Initiative - 9% (est. 20 million)
   Economic Revitalization - 15% (est. 33 million)
   Green New Deal - 9% (est. $20 million)

GSBA appreciates the additional investment in the Equitable Development Initiative, which may be used to support community-initiated equitable development projects that advance economic mobility and opportunity, prevent residential, commercial, and cultural displacement, build on local cultural assets, promote transportation mobility and connectivity, develop healthy and safe neighborhoods, and enable equitable access to all neighborhoods.

The economic revitalization package is the part that GSBA has been most closely paying attention to. This funding will support local businesses and tourism to spur the local economic recovery and to provide economic stability for the city’s workforce. This funding is intended to address the economic hardship small business owners and their employees, and nonprofit organizations and their employees, have experienced due to loss of business income, grant funding reductions, increased operational costs, etc., as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. The efforts will focus on marginalized populations.

This resolution sets up a workgroup that will be convened by the Mayor and include representatives from City departments,small businesses, labor representatives, and others to elaborate on these intentions and fine-tune where the funding will be allocated. GSBA fully intends to continue our involvement and advocate for the needs of our small business and nonprofit members in this workgroup in whatever capacity we are able.

What is next?
We know that these bills are not the end of the discussion. The JumpStart working group still needs to be convened to finalize where the economic revitalization money will be allocated. Washington State Representative Nicole Macri appears to be planning a statewide payroll tax that could supercede this Seattle effort (at all stages Seattle City Council has indicated that they would also prefer a statewide solution and the JumpStart bill includes a drawdown clause if the state implements a similar payroll tax). GSBA remains committed to representing the voice and needs of our membership at whatever level of government this discussion is taking place.