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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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Clark County arts groups, businesses get COVID aid from state

By , Columbian staff writer

More than a hundred Southwest Washington businesses received state pandemic relief assistance this month from the Washington State Department of Commerce and Washington State Arts Commission.

The commerce department dispersed $70 million in assistance to 3,787 small businesses around the state, according to a press release. Of those, 124 grants were in Vancouver’s metro area.

The funding came in the form of two programs — Working Washington Grants: Round 5 and the Convention Center Grant program.

The Convention Center grants ranged from $5,505 to $400,000 and were given to 37 businesses, including two in Vancouver — Heathman Lodge and Events Plus Inc.

The Working Washington grants ranged from $500 to $75,000. There were 122 local recipients, including the Vancouver USA Singers, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Art Space, Magenta Theater and Columbia Dance.

Not all recipients were in the arts, however. Restaurants, athletic clubs and various other small businesses and nonprofits also were on the list.

One such group was the Vancouver Farmers Market.

“The cost of providing services during the pandemic was steep, and the (Vancouver Farmers Market) had to use a significant portion of our savings in order to remain in operation,” Jordan Boldt, executive director of the market, told The Columbian. “This grant helped defray some of those costs and has made a significant impact toward our recovery.”

Small businesses depending on conventions and conferences, as well as nonprofits and cultural businesses, were particularly hard hit by the pandemic and saw sustained and staggering losses, according to the commerce department.

“Our creative businesses need this financial support,” said Karen Hanan, executive director of the Washington State Arts Commission, in the press release.

Hanan called arts, heritage, and science organizations the heart of the state’s communities and economy.

“We have more work to do, but the success of Working Washington Grants: Round 5 is a cause for celebration,” Hanan added.

Grants were awarded in each of Washington’s 39 counties. More than 70 percent of awardees of the Working Washington Round 5 self-identified as coming from historically disadvantaged communities.

“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 in the press release.

Around $100 million of relief funding is expected in March. It will be geared toward small businesses in the hospitality sector.