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Federal pandemic assistance a relief for many western Washington businesses — but not all qualify

The $900 billion coronavirus relief package includes $284 billion for small businesses, but not all of them will have access to this aid.

OLYMPIA, Wash — News that President Donald Trump had signed the second pandemic relief bill on Sunday night was welcome to western Washington business owners.

Chris Knudson, owner of Olympia’s Well 80 Brewhouse, said he planned on applying for the second round of federal aid Monday. 

Nearly $300 billion of the $900 billion approved by Congress will be given to owners of small businesses, from restaurants to bowling alleys.

“Without this money, I don’t know what the heck we would do,” Knudson said. 

Knudson had to get creative to keep his Well 80 Brewhouse open in 2020. 

But Knudson said expanding the outdoor seating and offering more takeout options were only part of his survival plan. 

He said he does not think he would have been able to stay in business without the original round of loans available through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which was part of the CARES Act package that passed earlier this year.

“Whatever we can do to get a little more money to keep us going is fantastic,” Knudson said. 

To qualify for the loans, business owners must employ fewer than 300 people and prove business has dropped more than 25% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. 

Knudson said he’s lost around half of his business and employees since late 2019. 

The pandemic relief includes $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit, a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans and a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters.

Food stamp benefits would temporarily be increased by 15%. The airline industry gets $15 billion.

Live venues and theaters, which have been completely shut down or limited to a fraction of their regular capacity since March, are also getting $15 billion, this will include live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators, museum operators, and movie theater operators. 

There’s no specific provision in the bill for restaurants, but they can benefit more than before from the Paycheck Protection Program. 

But not all business owners are celebrating the stimulus package. 

“We don’t qualify,” said Tonya Bergum, owner of the Olympia Pinball Museum. 

Since her business opened in March of 2020, she cannot apply for the federal assistance. 

Bergum said unless more help is offered by the federal government, or the state, she won’t survive. 

“We’re going to have to close, we’ll have to pack it all up,” Bergum said. “We won’t be back.” 

The Washington Hospitality Association also hopes more help is on the way. 

“This is a good down payment on relief for the hospitality industry,” said association president and CEO Anthony Anton. “We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers at the state and federal level to ensure the hospitality industry sees a strong recovery.” 

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