Council passes pair of COVID relief bills

In a special meeting today, the City Council passed two bills to provide additional relief for impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The first bill reallocates an additional $1.4 million to the Office of Economic Development’s grants program to provide funding to small businesses, with the priority being those in areas of the city with high risk of displacement. $400,000 of the funds were HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars that went unspent in 2019; the other $1 million was earmarked for a senior center at the PacMed building on Beacon Hill, but according to the city the PacMed project is not yet ready for the funds this year so other CDBG funds will be used in 2021.  Because some of the funds are coming from HUD, the recipients must have household incomes below 80% of AMI.

The second bill temporarily waives interest charges by Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities on delinquent utility bills during the COVID-19 declared emergency. It applies to residential customers, small business customers with annual gross receipts under $5 million in 2019, and non-profits.

The Council also introduced a third bill today into its legislative process that would transfer an additional $968,000 of CDBG funds remaining from 2018 and 2019 to the Office of Economic Development’s small business grants program. Since the Council may not pass an ordinance at the same meeting in which it is introduced, it will need to wait until Monday to be adopted.

A side note: today was Council President Gonzalez’s first day back from maternity leave, which she cut short because of the COVID-19 emergency. She deftly ran the Council’s meeting today, despite it being held over a telephone conference call.