At its Sept. 15 meeting, the Pierce County Council made an additional $7.75 million in rental and mortgage assistance available to help county businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, the council established a Commercial Rent and Mortgage Payment Assistance Program , which was initially funded with $2.5 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Based on the initial response to the program, demand for commercial rent and mortgage assistance will exceed the allotted funding.
“This proposal (Proposal No. 2020-95) would modify the COVID-19 Adaptation Grant Program but also modify the Commercial Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program,” Hugh Taylor, senior legislative analyst, said.
Businesses' need for rent and mortgage assistance exceeds the need for loans under the Adaptation Grant Program, which is why the council voted 7-0 to move money from the grant program, along with funding previously dedicated to other economic stabilization and recovery programs, to support rent and mortgage assistance.
Other changes to the rent and mortgage assistance program include expanding eligibility to cover more businesses; allowing program funds to be applied to rent and mortgage payments in arrears; increasing the maximum amount of funding available to businesses from $5,000 a month to $8,000 a month with a total maximum amount received of $24,000, up from the previous maximum of $15,000. The total amount of funding awarded through the rent and mortgage assistance account will not exceed $10.25 million.
“With this change, we should be able to help at least 500 businesses with rent and mortgage assistance,” Pierce County Economic Development Director Betty Capestany said.
Councilmember Derek Young noted the county’s residential rental assistance program has been swamped and unavailable to people for several weeks.
“From a public perspective, it may appear to us that we’re doing more to keep businesses housed than we are people, and while I think there’s a nexus between the two, we should do both.” Young said. “I want to make sure that we get a report back within the next week from the executive’s office on why the residential program seems to be choking on volume.”
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