More than $11 million in grants available for small business, nonprofits impacted by COVID-19

SEATTLE — Amazon announced a $5 million grant Tuesday to help businesses impacted by the virus. Click here for information on how to apply.

John Schoettler, Amazon’s VP of Global Real Estate and Facilities, said more than 100 small businesses have moved into the neighborhood and have come to rely on the Amazon foot traffic.

But with social distancing and work-from-home mandates, South Lake Union is quiet.

Lula Salads food truck is a regular in the SLU neighborhood and they’ve noticed the change.

“Huge impact,” said Mike Ham, co-owner of the food truck.

“This truck is one of the most popular; the line is usually very long,” said Maureen Naval, a customer.

But the lunch hour on Tuesday brought just a few customers.

“We were just looking at the numbers and we are about 89% down from last Tuesday,” Ham said.

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Amazon said those types of stories are why the company decided to launch the Neighborhood and Small Business Relief Fund.

“This was just putting two and two together and realizing our neighbors were in need,” Schoettler said.

The grant is for small businesses with 50 employees or less, or has annual sales of less than $7 million.

“We’re really excited about the grant and super excited we're able to do that,” Schoettler said.

Other companies are also stepping up to help – particularly, those on the front lines of the coronavirus response.

Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Connie & Steve Ballmer are just a few of the many companies and people that have contributed to the Covid-19 Response Fund, hosted by the Seattle Foundation.

The money will go to nonprofits.

“The need is increasing rapidly,” said Gordon McHenry Jr., the president and CEO of United Way of King County.

Many fundraisers for the months of March and April have been canceled. The United Way says groups that work with the area’s most vulnerable populations --- like people with no health insurance --- are feeling the pressure.

“People are already struggling with how to get access to services they've been used to getting,” McHenry said. “Daily stresses have been exacerbated by this virus. We’re concerned --- do they have staff to continue to deliver these services?” he said.

So far, the Covid-19 Response Fund has raised $6.2 million.

People say they're surprised with how much major companies in our area are stepping up, Amazon, in particular.

“I was pretty impressed. They get kind of a bad rap around town, but whether you like them or not, the response so far has been pretty impressive,” Ham said. “I feel like they're becoming more a part of the community."

Amazon is also forgiving March rent for retailers that are tenants in Amazon-owned buildings.

Amazon is also continuing to pay its 10,000 hourly workers who service the buildings and Amazon employees, though the need for those workers is reduced because of the work-from-home edict.