San Juan County announces CARES small business relief grant

Two new grants aim to help small businesses in the San Juan Islands survive COVID-19.

The first is the Small Business Relief Grant program from San Juan County. In this grant, launched Sept. 1, the county will use part of the $943,250 of the CARES Act funding it received from the state to assist for-profit businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“San Juan County feels fortunate that funding from the CARES Act is available to help support island small businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” San Juan County Council Chairperson Rick Hughes said in a press release. “While this will not solve every problem, we welcome and support every opportunity to help island businesses, their owners, and their staff during this difficult time.”

With nearly $150,000 available, the county will provide businesses up to $5,000 to help the business to stay open, retain jobs, and meet public health and safety measures to prevent COVID-19. The application process for both grants is being administered by the San Juan County Economic Development Council and an independent panel will make final award determinations.

The application deadline for the county grant is midnight, Sunday, Sept. 20. To be eligible, a business must be located within San Juan County and need to have been in business for at least one year, with as many as 10 full-time equivalent employees as of March 11. Businesses with no employees that are owned and operated by one person do not qualify. Eligible businesses need to have EIN and UBI numbers. Visit for program details, including the complete text of the “Notification of Funding Available” and the application portal.

The grant funds are intended to reimburse costs associated with COVID-19, including asymptomatic testing for employees; purchasing of personal protective equipment and exposure controls; paying for business rent and utilities; and switching business to online sales. Applicants must upload itemized expenses and a signed eligibility certification form. Businesses that previously received funding from the Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant, the Friday Harbor Business Rent Relief Grant, [VC2] U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation “Save Small Business” grantor the Valmark Back-to-Business Grant programs are not eligible. Additionally, nonprofits are not eligible for the program. Grant funds also cannot be used to cover expenses covered by federal funds from the Payroll Protection Program or Emergency Economic Injury Grant portion of the Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

The other grant the EDC is helping to facilitate is the second round of the Working Washington program. This funding mechanism allows for up to $10,000 per business and has a short window to apply with applications due by 5 p.m., Sept. 10. Eligible businesses will have fewer than 20 employees.

Just like the county program, this grant is not available to nonprofits or companies that received another grant previously. Reimbursable expenses need to have been incurred between March 1 and the application date.

“We tried to make it fairly painless,” the EDC’s John Gomez said during a Zoom meeting about the grants on Sept. 2.

For more information and to apply for the second round of the Working Washington grant, visit

According to Gomez, only 21 of the approximately 250 San Juan County applicants that applied for the Working Washington grant received payment the first round. Gomez noted the first grant was restrictive and extremely competitive. Because the current grants require the business to not have received previous grant funds, the EDC anticipates it will be less competitive than the previous ones.

EDC Executive Director Victoria Compton encouraged business owners to contact the EDC with any help they may need in navigating unemployment or applying for grants. EDC staff added that these grants will not be the last of their kind as well.

To contact the EDC, call 360-378-2906 or email

“We’ll find the money some way because it’s really important for us to serve our businesses right now,” Compton concluded.