Clark County will disburse $1.36 million in CARES Act aid to local dining businesses.
The Clark County Council unanimously approved the funding during a meeting Tuesday. Food establishments, which were ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee in March to temporarily halt in-person dining due COVID-19, remain limited to seating capacities of less than 50 percent under the state’s reopening plan.
The amount of money distributed to each business will match what each establishment paid for this year’s retail food permit, ranging from $258 to $1,835, according to the county Public Health Department.
Catering companies and multiple event vendors, which needed to cancel existing contracts and are still unable to operate at large public gatherings, will also be eligible for the funding, as will mobile food units.
The county currently has 1,761 active food permits. Since January, 73 food permits have closed, according to the county health department.
The county also created options for deferred and partial permit renewal payment plans in response to the virus. So far, 25 businesses have been approved for the deferred payment plan; 17 are on a partial payment plan.
“It’s not much, but it’s something, and I know that every little bit helps,” Councilor Julie Olson said. “And hopefully, we won’t lose a large number of more restaurants as we try to finish this year and get through this crisis.”
The county might contract with nonprofit Mercy Corps Northwest to distribute the funds, depending on state requirements, though it would likely make the process slower, said county Public Health Food Safety Program Manager Brigette Bashaw.
Bashaw expressed optimism, however, that the county itself would be allowed to distribute the funds.
Applications will be available online and by telephone, Bashaw said.
The federal CARES — Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — Act was signed into law March 27 and provided $150 billion in direct aid to local governments. Clark County received $26,867,500 of the funding.