At its March 24 meeting, the Pierce County Council passed four ordinances to immediately provide support, relief and resources for people and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 —coronavirus — pandemic.

The centerpiece of those ordinances is Proposal No. 2020-43, declaring an emergency and establishing a loan program for small businesses. Under certain qualifying conditions, businesses may apply for a zero-interest, 12-month loan at $2,000 per employee, with a total amount per employer not to exceed $10,000. The loan fund will be administered by the Pierce County Economic Development Department.

People can apply online at www.piercecountywa.gov/reliefloan. For more information, contact the Pierce County Economic Development Department at 253-798-6150, or email PCSBRLoan@piercecountywa.gov.

“We are the glass-half-full people that understand when there’s adversity, there’s also opportunity,” Councilman Dave Morell said, lauding the importance of the small business community.

As well, the council passed Ordinance No. 2020-44 to provide economic relief for Pierce County sewer customers. The ordinance waives penalties or interest on delinquent sewer payments during the 90-day period from the March 6 emergency declaration. Commercial sewer customers will be charged based upon actual usage instead of water usage from the prior year, to reflect the relief restaurants and other heavy water-use businesses may need. Relief may be extended for an additional 90 days upon notice to the council.

Several Pierce County officials were also on hand to update the Pierce County Council on current efforts to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

“We are shifting our current strategy from containment to mitigation,” said Dr. Anthony Chen, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department director of health.

Transmission of the virus is widespread in Pierce County, he said, but noted people are getting the message about the importance of basic sanitation and social distancing, including the council.

All seven council members participated in the meeting, with Pam Roach and Connie Ladenburg taking part via phone. Physically present members of the council sat with an empty chair between each of them.

“Our role is to really deal with the cascading impacts related to the spread of this virus,” Emergency Manager Director Jody Ferguson said.

Communicable Disease Division Director Nigel Turner said hospitals in Pierce County are currently able to meet capacity owing to surge planning.

“We don’t know how bad it’s going to be, but we need to plan for the worst,” Turner said.