Chamber, commission critique business aid for covid-19 expenses
October 15, 2020
Tuesday was a day for discussions for Wahkiakum County commissioners and a variety of representatives of local organizations who came together for two online Zoom meetings.
Economic relief for business was a major topic during the meeting of the county board of commissioners.
The Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce introduced new Interim Director Stacey Lane who, with board member Sandi Benbrook Rieder, initiated a discussion about state and federal funding for assisting businesses in dealing with the covid-19 pandemic.
The Chamber has handled an initial round of loan funds from the State of Washington, with 12 of 15 business applications approved, Benbrook-Rieder said.
A second round has started with $176,000 available and potential loans up to $10,000.
The initial loan program wasn't much help, said Richard Erickson, a Chamber board member and partner in a bed and breakfast business. The pandemic has shredded their bookings, which are down 80 percent for the year.
Initial funding offered some hope; then rules changed to allow an allocation of $1,000 per employee, and the bed and breakfast had one employee, and then the pool of funds emptied before any came to the bed and breakfast.
"It's brutal," Erickson said.
Lane said rules have changed for the second round and should make funds more accessible.
Commissioner Dan Cothren echoed Erickson's comments.
"It's very frustrating what you're going through," Cothren said. "The governor was shooting in the dark. We had no control here. We were a rubber stamp. The money coming down wasn't getting to the right places. We could have done a better job."
Other issues covered Tuesday which included the commission meeting and a roundtable sponsored by the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Council of Governments included:
--Commissioner Mike Backman urged the board to hold a workshop with the board of directors of Johnson Park in Rosburg to see what protocols could be developed so that the community could use the center.
"It's a big part of the community (in the Westend), and they want to use it," Backman said.
"I agree," said Commissioner Gene Strong. "We have a great asset that's not being used. We need to work on this."
--The board issued a proclamation stating October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Karissa Nogueira, advocate from the Charlotte House Domestic Violence Shelter, said the covid-19 pandemic has affected shelter protocols and activities.
Nogueira said she has been unable to do educational work in schools and that the shelter has significantly increased health screening for residents.