The presence of COVID-19 in Washington led to statewide Stay Home, Stay Health orders. Kirkland businesses were faced with new challenges and severe economic hardship under these restrictions, and small businesses with limited cash reserves struggled to operate under these conditions. Business and leisure travel was all but eliminated, depressing the revenues of Kirkland hotels to devastatingly low levels. The Kirkland City Council acknowledges the significant impacts of the pandemic on the local economy and has made supporting local businesses during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic emergency a priority.
From March 2020 to July 2022, the City of Kirkland dedicated $2.6 million in COVID-19 recovery funding towards helping businesses in need.
Kirkland CARES Small Business Relief Fund
Providing relief to local businesses coping with the pandemic was an important aspect of Kirkland’s COVID-19 investment plan. The Kirkland CARES Small Business Relief Fund gave grants to small businesses and non-profits in the community. These grants were intended to help local businesses make ends meet, providing the financial resources to allow businesses to continue to pay rent, staff, and purchase necessary supplies. To extend the reach of the program in the community, the CARES Small Business Relief Fund was promoted in four different languages. Due to the higher-than-expected interest in the program, the City expanded the program to be able to serve 207 Kirkland businesses and provide $1.035 million in relief.
This image shows a promotional image of the Kirkland Cares Small Business Relief Fund. It shows a sign that says "We're Open" in blue and pink neon text.
Startup 425 Business Response Team
The City partnered with the Startup 425 cities to help fund the Startup 425 Business Response team. The 425 Business Response Team advised business owners on how to understand and apply for city, state, federal, and private economic relief programs related to COVID-19. By the end of 2020, the Business Response Team received approximately 181 inquiries from Kirkland businesses and overall help secure a total of 73 loan packages.
This image is the logo of the (re) Startup425 program.
Commercial Rent Relief Program
The Commercial Rent Relief Program (CRRP) provided grants to prevent evictions of small businesses in the community. This program sought to assist underserved and immigrant businesses that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those communities that are underserved by other financial assistance programs. Through CRRP, 24 Kirkland-based businesses received $224,280 in grant funding.
In this image, a City of Kirkland staff member presents a local businesses owner with a grant for relief.
Small Business Relief Program
Based on the demonstrated need in the community, the Small Business Relief Program (SBRP) was created. SBRP aimed to help those businesses that demonstrated a financial need for support but did not meet the criteria for the CRRP program. SBRP provided $330,233 in grant relief to 51 local businesses.
This image has text that says "Apply for Help - Small Business Relief Program". In the background are trees with blossoms in front of local restaurants.
For more information about the funding sources for these programs, you can view the Relief Programs Dashboard.
Rental Risk Assistance Fund (RRAF)
The Kirkland Rental Risk Assistance Fund allocates funding to assist households and individuals seeking new residential leases in the City of Kirkland. The program is intended to help those facing barriers to obtain stable housing. The application window opened on February 15, 2023. The program will operate as long as funds remain available, or until the city announces an end date. The city has partnered with the administrator FORWARD to administer the program. The Fund allocates up to $45,000 for direct assistance to landlords who apply.
This image is a set of housekeys resting on a Lease Agreement form.
Along with providing financial support to small businesses in Kirkland, the City has created programs to invigorate the local economy and to highlight the many businesses that call Kirkland home.
Kirkland Ca$h was created to support small businesses and the hospitality industry negatively impacted by COVID-19. Kirkland Ca$h is a community currency certificate that can be redeemed at participating Kirkland businesses. Kirkland Ca$h is earned in $25 increments by visitors that booked stays at participating hotels. The City partnered with four hotels and more than 80 businesses to redeem the cash certificates. Participating hotels saw a total of 300 additional room bookings through the program and more than $9,500 in revenues were generated by certificate redeeming businesses in the first iteration of the program. This program continues to evolve to support both hotels and participating businesses. Kirkland Ca$h is also used to incent engagement with civic activities, such as the Spark Creativity Arts Scholarship Fund. This partnership with the Kirkland Parks and Community Foundation leverages Kirkland Ca$h to incent private giving to a charitable fund managed by the KPCF and dedicated to supporting scholarships for underserved populations at the city’s arts organizations. Donors to the Fund receive a type of “gift matching” in the form of a $25 Kirkland Ca$h certificate for every $100 donation. The Kirkland Ca$h certificates are redeemable only at participating local businesses.
Image is a photo from the Heathman hotel, which is one of the hotels that participated in Kirkland Ca$h. The image has text that says "You Stay We Pay. Book Your Stay and Get $$$"
ShopLocal Kirkland is a “digital main street“ that responded to the shifting purchasing trends influenced by the pandemic. This digital marketplace provides small businesses with a web presence and platform to attract online purchases. Businesses can register for the platform for free and are not required to pay any membership fees. The ability to sell products virtually has allowed small businesses adapt to the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic
This image shows the Shop Local Kirkland logo with the downtown Kirkland waterfront in the background.
Evenings on Park Lane
The City created flexible permitting options to help the community adapt to the “new normal” of the pandemic. These permits allowed for restaurants, retails, and other businesses to attract customers using new approaches. Local businesses could apply for Sidewalk Café permits, temporary pick-up/take-out stall permits, Outdoor Café permits, temporary ‘parklet” permits, and permits to use adjoining private parking stalls for temporary seating or retail space. The flexible permitting options led to a successful Evenings on Park Lane initiative, which closed the west end of Park Lane and Main Street to vehicles from 6 p.m.
This image shows the parklets set up by local Kirkland businesses and restaurants during the pandemic.
Other City Programs to Support Businesses
Kirkland Arts Relief Fund: The City dedicated $318,741 in relief funding to support non-profit Cultural Arts programs in Kirkland that had documented negative financial impacts due to COVID-19.
Outreach Materials to Kirkland Businesses: Within 10 days of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kirkland, the City produced and mailed COVID-19 information packets to each business.
Staff Support for Economic Development COVID-19 Response: The City hired temporary staff to develop, implement, and promote the ShopLocalKirkland.com site.