Relief for Small Businesses during Coronavirus Emergency

Small businesses employ our neighbors and their paychecks enable people to surviveWhile it’s hard to determine the far-reaching effects of COVID-19, there are steps we can take in the near-term to avoid exacerbating an already challenging chapter in our region’s history,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle).

Note: I am pleased that Mayor Durkan issued two press releases today to provide relief for small businesses. All 20 neighborhoods of District 4 from Eastlake to Wallingford to Wedgwood have small businesses and many are struggling in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. We will post more details about the relief programs as they become available, including the new SBA loans that could be used to assist with commercial rent.

1st Press Release:

Following Outreach to Small Business Owners, Mayor Durkan Announces Initial Recovery Package to Ease Financial Impacts of COVID-19 Outbreak:

Mayor Durkan Announces a New Small Business Recovery Task Force

Seattle (March 10, 2020) – Following robust outreach to small business owners and community stakeholders, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced new initial actions to provide immediate relief for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Her actions build off Governor Inslee’s announcement to help individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. The initial support package is broken down into five components and will be solidified through an Executive Order later this week:

  1. Deferral of B&O Taxes. Effective immediately, the department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) will defer business and occupation (B&O) tax collections for eligible business owners, allowing small business owners increased flexibility during a period of financial duress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  2. Expansion of Small Business Stabilization Fund. OED is expanding their Small Business Stabilization Fund to support income-qualified microbusinesses [5 or fewer employees].
  3. Assistance to Access SBA Loans. OED will provide direct technical assistance to local small businesses and nonprofits to ensure they can immediately access the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) federal loan program once it becomes available.
  4. Relief for Utility Payments. As announced earlier by Mayor Durkan, all SPU and SCL customers can set up deferred payment plans if their financial stability has been jeopardized by COVID-19.
  5. New Small Business Recovery Task Force. The Mayor has appointed former Governor Gary Locke and former Council President Bruce Harrell to lead the COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Task Force, which will advise on long-term policy recommendations and provide technical assistance and outreach.

“My administration is looking into every resource at our disposal to help support small businesses during this challenging time. Our small businesses are the economic workhorses of America, particularly in Seattle, where they make up 95 percent of our establishments and provide nearly 200,000 jobs,” said Mayor Durkan. “The next few months will be tough. The City is taking some initial actions by deferring utility and B&O payments and working to directly provide businesses with loans and grants, and we know our actions must continue to support both our workers and our small businesses. Every day, we will be evaluating how we can support our workers and keeping our businesses afloat in this public health emergency. Ultimately, we know that the federal government must take the lead and keep our small businesses and workers at the forefront of our assistance and relief.”

“The worries for small businesses in my district and across Seattle are real, and they will become far more pronounced as the region continues to battle the spread of COVID-19,” said Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia). “I appreciate the Mayor’s concern and swift action to provide relief to our small businesses and their employees. Now more than ever, we must support our small businesses and provide them the flexibility and resources they need to mitigate the economic impacts of the coronavirus.”

Deferral of B&O Taxes

FAS will offer deferred Business and Occupation (B&O) tax filing and payment options for businesses impacted by COVID-19. Eligible businesses include those that have annual taxable income of $5 million or less and currently pay City taxes on a quarterly basis. Businesses will have until late 2020 to pay their B&O under this plan. The City estimates that 20,000 businesses could be eligible for this, based on B&O reporting.

“We in FAS are working every angle we can to support our small businesses. These businesses are vital to not only our economy, but to our community. The impact of this crisis creates a razor-thin margin for error for our small businesses, and Mayor Durkan has called on us to be bold in our response. By offering deferred Business & Occupation tax payments, we hope to provide our small businesses with a little more breathing room during this unsettling time,” said Calvin W. Goings, Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.  

Expansion of Small Business Stabilization Fund and Small Business Administration Loans

During the City’s outreach, community leaders recommended that the City develop an independent small business fund to supplement federal SBA loans. To this end, the City is expanding our existing Small Business Stabilization Fund to support income-qualified microbusinesses who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. To supplement the federal government’s relief effort, the City’s fund will target outreach to micro-businesses in areas at high risk of displacement. Eligible business owners can access these funds regardless of immigration status. The City Budget Office (CBO) is developing accompanying budget legislation, which will be transmitted to the City Council for consideration in the coming days.

“OED is working to support our small business community during this difficult and unstable time. We know that so many of our small businesses are skating on a thin profit margin, and so many don’t have enough cash in the reserves to withstand a prolonged economic slump,” said OED Director Bobby Lee. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our small businesses open and thriving, and we’re targeting our outreach towards historically underserved communities, including undocumented workers, and communities that speak a language other than English. These initiatives will provide important and immediate relief, but ultimately, we need the federal government to be an engaged and active partner.”

In addition, the City has been working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to expediate disaster assistance loans approved as part of the Congressional package. Once SBA releases further guidance, OED is prepared to offer technical assistance to Seattle’s small businesses.

New Small Business Recovery Task Force

The Mayor has appointed former Governor Gary Locke and former Council President Bruce Harrell to lead a COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Task Force. Effective immediately, the Task Force will convene weekly to provide an update on current impacts to small businesses, craft policy recommendations at the local, state and federal level, and support OED’s outreach and education efforts to small businesses. The Task Force will also coordinate technical assistance workshops so that small business owners, particularly immigrant and refugee owned businesses, can quickly apply for and access Small Business Administration funds as they become available.

The Task Force will be supported by staff from the Mayor’s Office, OED, and DON. 

“It is great that the City of Seattle is stepping up and providing immediate financial relief for residents and businesses,” said former Governor Locke. “But we know that the long-term strength of our economy is being challenged. We need to devise policies and solutions to help our small business owners and workers weather this storm.”

“I look forward to working in partnership with Mayor Durkan, Governor Locke, and our small business owners to ensure we’re meeting their needs during this difficult time,” said former Council President Bruce A. Harrell. “Successful solutions will be community-driven, and we’re going to ensure small business owners are leading the way on the City’s economic response.”

# # #

2nd Press Release:

Mayor Durkan Announces Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light Will Keep Utilities on During COVID-19 Civil Emergency in Seattle

Seattle (March 10, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) will keep utility services on during the COVID-19 Civil Emergency in Seattle. This will provide immediate utility relief for customers, both residential and commercial, financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Effective immediately, all SPU and SCL customers can set up deferred payment plans if their financial stability has been jeopardized by COVID-19. Utility service will stay on as their deferred payment plans are developed and implemented. 

In addition to encouraging customers to set up payment plans, SPU and SCL have created a Utility Discount Program (UDP) self-certification form for income-eligible customers. This allows income-eligible residential customers to access heavily discounted utilities by simply signing a short form that attests to their household income, rather than having to provide income documentation. This will provide immediate and lasting utility bill relief for customers who are unemployed or underemployed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re keeping our utilities on for the duration of the COVID-19 Civil Emergency in Seattle. We’re already seeing the impact COVID-19 is having on working people, nonprofits, and small business owners in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “The City of Seattle supports working people and small businesses, and we will do everything in our power to ease their financial stress during this time. Every day, I want us to think about supporting our workers, and keeping individuals safe and our businesses afloat.”

“While it’s hard to determine what the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 will be in the long-term, there are steps we can take in the near-term to avoid exacerbating an already challenging chapter in our region’s history,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle). “Today’s announcement also builds on the prior efforts of Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who worked hard to give rate relief to all qualified customers. I hope to continue this discussion during my April 1 committee meeting as our public health officials deem appropriate.”

SPU and SCL customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19, regardless of background or immigration status, can request a deferred payment plan with the utilities. This will ensure the customer receives uninterrupted utility services as they work with utility service representatives to develop a long-term plan that meets their financial needs. In addition, Mayor Durkan will transmit legislation this week to eliminate the one percent late fee added to all past due balances.

Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities will also begin proactive outreach to small and midsize businesses that may already be experiencing financial difficulty to establish a payment arrangement that will support their continued operations through this emergency and beyond. Customer contacts will begin mid-week. 

“Our goal is to provide you with reliable, affordable, and uninterrupted utility services, but we need your help to do so,” said Debra Smith, Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO. “If you are struggling to pay your utility bill due to impacts related to COVID-19, please contact us so we can assist.”

“City utilities are prepared to make payment arrangements based upon individual customer needs,” said Mami Hara, Seattle Public Utilities General Manager and CEO. “Whether you are a residential customer, a nonprofit or a business, our staff is ready to help find a solution.”

Customers financially impacted by COVID 19 are urged to set up payment plans with either Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities by calling 206-684-3000 or sending an email 24/7 at

UDP lowers Seattle City Light bills by 60 percent and Seattle Public Utility bills by 50 percent. To learn more about enrollment in UDP, call 206-684-0268. Eligibility requirements can be found here.

# # #

© 1995-2016 City of Seattle