More than 73 businesses have declined to renew their retail food licenses amidst the pandemic
CLARK COUNTY — Clark County businesses that serve food could be receiving help in the form of $1.36 million in relief funding unanimously approved this week by the Clark County Council.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s order in March which temporarily closed restaurants to in-person dining left many reeling. In Phase 2, restaurants can now allow dine-in business at half of normal capacity, with no more than five people per table.
“Caterers were required to cancel existing contracts,” said Bashaw, “and have been very limited in their ability to develop new contracts as social gatherings are limited to five people or fewer.”
Multi-event coordinators have also seen their businesses all but dry up with many weddings either postponed or greatly reduced in size, and most Summer concerts and other events canceled.
The county, which has 1,761 active food permits has seen 73 establishments closed, at least temporarily
Twenty-five others have been approved to pay their license renewal through an installment plan approved by the Public Health Department, said Public Health Food Safety Program Manager Brigette Bashaw during Tuesday’s virtual council meeting. Another 17 are on a partial repayment plan.
The funding approved Tuesday will allow any licensed food establishment that made less than $1 million in revenue last year to apply for relief. The amount could vary from $258 to $1,835, according to Bashaw, and would depend on the amount paid for this year’s retail food permit.
“It’s not much but it’s something,” said Councilor Julie Olson. “And hopefully we won’t lose a large number of more restaurants as we try to finish this year and get through this crisis.”
Clark County received nearly $27 million as part of the CARES Act funding package approved by congress last March, which provided $150 billion in direct aid to local governments.
The county has been one of the more vocal local governments in Washington state to accuse the Department of Commerce (DoC) of failing to fully disperse those funds. DoC has announced plans to release an additional $247 million in funding for local governments, though details on how the money would be allocated have not yet been released.
Bashaw said businesses that qualify for the relief funding will need to apply, either online or via telephone, but won’t need to provide proof that the money was spent on coronavirus-related expenses.
Public Health is hoping to distribute the funding internally, but could contract with the nonprofit Mercy Corps Northwest if the state requires it. The concern there would be that the county has a relatively tight window to apply for reimbursement of the funds from the state, which is requiring that local governments apply to receive CARES Act funding by Oct. 31.