Washington’s Commerce Department has announced about $10 million in coronavirus relief grants for some of the state’s smallest businesses.
Nearly 200 businesses in rural eastern Washington towns are among the recipients.
Owen Grocery and Deli in Newport is one of the recipients of a Working Washington grant, which targets companies with up to 10 employees.
“I look at some of the federal things and they talk about small businesses being 500 employees or less and I just laugh at that and think I have six," said owner Rob Owen, speaking Tuesday during a video conference with Governor Jay Inslee and Commerce Department Secretary Lisa Brown.
Owen says he’s managed to keep those employees on the payroll, despite a 50% drop in sales. He says the traffic from customers going to and from Canada has fallen significantly because the border is closed. And so has the traffic from people traveling to and from cabins at Priest and other lakes.
“We still have challenges. Our main grocery supplier, our main retail supplier made a corporate decision to stop servicing businesses such as mine. They felt that they were overwhelmed," he said.
So, Owen says he’s been on the road a lot lately, trying to find alternate suppliers so he can keep his shelves stocked. He says the small business grant will help keep his store afloat until sales rebound.
Pend Oreille County businesses received 19 grants, totaling $155,000. Small companies in Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln and Okanogan counties are also collecting relief checks, as are businesses in Adams, Asotin and Garfield counties.