Maurilia Marquez, owner of Su Casa Marquez on Fourth Plain Boulevard, is behind with her rent. She’s feeling the squeeze to pay her employees. And business during the pandemic is slow for the family-owned Mexican restaurant.
In March, she received a Paycheck Protection Program loan for her 10-year-old business, but like most loan recipients, her money is used up. As she waits for another round of stimulus money from Congress, she’s hoping one of a handful of local grants will help her pull through some of the harshest financial months.
Two local grants are available to Clark County businesses: The first is a grant from the city of Vancouver, Clark County and Mercy Corps Northwest that is expected to pay out soon. A second grant, using additional CARES Act funding, will be distributed by the Columbia River Economic Development Council and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and will provide up to $30,000 to each local business that applies.
In addition, the window for a grant from the Washington Department of Commerce will open soon too.
“It’s making me stay open,” Marquez said about the Mercy Corps Northwest grant. “Sometimes we don’t know in the months coming if they’ll get more slow. I want to stay open, but we don’t know.”
A total of 365 small-business owners applied for the Mercy Corps grant, and about 250 businesses will receive the money; the average grant amount is about $5,000, said Hannah Cotter, Southern Washington program manager for Mercy Corps Northwest. The grant funds total $1,257,500, she said.
“There is great need for small-business support during this time, and the partnership between the city and county has been extremely beneficial in enabling us to reach as many local businesses as possible,” said Cotter.
The application window for the grant has closed, but funds began to be distributed last week, said Teresa Brum, Vancouver’s economic development division manager.
The application period will open Wednesday for a larger grant distributed by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia River Economic Development Council. It will give up to $30,000 from a pool of $8.1 million of federal CARES Act money, said John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Chamber.
“Given the challenges of the last six and a half or seven months, that is a significant amount of money for a local business,” said McDonagh. “This particular grant will cover a wider scope of expenses than some of the other grants that were either restricted to payroll or rent.”
The grant is aimed at for-profit and nonprofit businesses based in Clark County with a brick-and-mortar presence, and they have to have been operating since September, McDonagh said.
McDonagh said for interested parties to check vancouverusa.com or credc.org for more information on Wednesday. The grants will be given on a rolling basis, so businesses don’t have to wait until all the applications are processed.
A number of restaurants have reached out asking about applying, including Nick’s Bar and Grill in Amboy.
Owner Jeff Strong said that the grant comes at a critical time for businesses like his, which has lost roughly $600,000 in revenue during the pandemic. Strong said he’ll apply for the maximum $30,000 amount.
“I’m sure we could justify that and then some,” he said.
Strong also applied for another statewide grant from the Washington Department of Commerce that will give up to $10,000 to small businesses with 20 or fewer employees, the state announced this month. Visit the Community Small Business Resiliency Grant Program website for more: homesightwa.org/community-development/washington-state-small-business-resiliency-grant.
“It’s crucial for people to support local businesses,” Strong said. “I’m not looking for a handout, but I’m being told I can’t do my job, so I think the government should pay my rent until I can.”