Candi Sullivan, 51, has managed Gee-Gee's Quilting Inc. for the past 25 years. Here she displays a bolt of colorful cloth in the store on Friday, July 17.

And then there were two.

Yelm businesses Lee’s Barber and Kinja Japanese Restaurant snagged the final two Yelm COVID-19 business grants — the 46th and 47th the city has awarded since it inaugurated the program in late June.

At that time, the Yelm City Council infused $109,620 into a new business grant program to help local businesses recover lost revenue during the state-mandated COVID-19 shutdown. The funding was also intended to help offset costs businesses incurred to reopen under Safe Start Washington guidelines. 

The city used a portion of the $274,050 federal CARES Act reimbursement grant it received to fund the program. Based on need, level of impact, and financial funding already received from other sources, Yelm businesses could receive a COVID-19 grant of up to $2,500. The final two grants expended the remainder of the $109,620 allocated to the grant program.

Yelm Mayor JW Foster heralded the grant program’s accomplishment Saturday via Twitter, writing in part: “Congrats to all the grant recipients, and thank you to all the residents that continue to shop local to support Yelm businesses.”

In an email Monday morning, Foster elaborated on the program’s success. He noted that local business owners had originally offered the city a variety of reasons for requiring the grants — rent, mortgages, utilities and COVID-19-related safeguards such as signage, sneeze-guards and the like — but in the end their conclusions dovetailed into a simple, but profound desire that reflected the turmoil the coronavirus has caused.

Wrote Foster: “Every one of them ended up saying it was all about taking care of their customers and their employees. They wanted to keep their doors open, or get reopened as quickly and safely as possible so Yelm could get back to ‘normal.’”

The grant program, however — at least to Foster and probably many others — wasn’t merely utilitarian. It was an emotional and psychological lifeline.

“I think what the grant program did more than anything else was keep hope alive in our community,” Foster wrote … “neighbors helping neighbors, again, like we do out here in Yelm!”

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