The City of Yelm has an additional $167,025 in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding that it plans on distributing into the Yelm Community Relief Fund for people in need and its business needs grant program.
Approximately 35 percent, or $58,459, will go into the Community Relief Fund, and the remaining 65 percent, or $108,566, will go to business grants.
According to Mayor JW Foster, businesses are eligible this time for up to $7,500 in coronavirus-related reimbursements. If a business was previously paid out through this grant program though, they’re only eligible for $7,500 minus whatever their previous grant was. Businesses also must reapply.
Through the Yelm Community Relief Fund, families are eligible for up to $500 to assist with financial hardships brought on by the health crisis and recession.
The Yelm City Council approved the allocations, which were not on the printed agenda though amended on at the start of the meeting, in a 5-2 vote Tuesday night. Council members James Blair and Joe DePinto voted against the measure.
Shortly before the vote, Blair told the council he’d like to see most if not all of those funds go to the people instead of to local businesses.
Council member Tad Stillwell, who has helped lead with the business grants program, said at the beginning of the discussion that he’d like to see at least 75 percent go to the businesses, which are still in dire straits six months into the pandemic.
“I just feel that there’s still a huge need in the business community,” Stillwell said. “Our previous grant money was great — everybody was appreciative — but I think it just barely scratched the surface. Some of them are just barely hanging on, as we know and are aware of.”
Council member Molly Carmody then suggested the council split it 50-50 between businesses and the Community Relief Fund. Stillwell then suggested the 35-65 split that was agreed upon.
DePinto voiced concern with how the process went, specifically with bringing forward such a high-dollar initiative with little preparation time for the legislating body.
“I don’t appreciate having to deal with over $100,000 with ‘quick math,’” he said. “When we’re dealing with that amount of taxpayer money, they deserve to have this cooked and ready to go, not just on a fly at a council meeting when we’re checking the numbers.”
DePinto also said unless the council agreed to delay action on allocation, he would be a “no” vote.
Council member Tracey Wood, a restaurant owner, said many businesses are still struggling from closures brought on by the state. He added that restaurants are still in a 50-percent capacity hold and bars are also restricted from serving alcohol past 10 p.m.
“I think that we’re doing what we can to help our citizens, but just as important are our businesses. If we’re not willing to help them bridge this gap, I think we’re doomed,” he said.
Earlier this year, the city council approved $274,050 in the first round of CARES Act funding to the city, business grants and the Community Relief Fund.
More than 45 businesses benefited from grants up to $2,500.