Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the City of Seattle has worked quickly to launch COVID-19 relief programs including rent relief, expanding shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness, grocery vouchers for working families, direct cash assistance for immigrants and refugees, and financial assistance to small businesses. Residents and businesses can find a list of existing COVID-19 relief resources and policies on this website.
Following the recent announcement of $6 million in Equitable Development Initiative funding for site acquisition, capacity building, and capital improvements for community organizations fighting displacement, the Office of Planning and Community Development will provide an additional $1.7 million in funding to support BIPOC-led organizations that have been impacted by the pandemic. Awards of up to $50,000 will go out to 36 organizations to support community-based responses to the pandemic. You can find the full list of recipients here.
There are a series of key programs that are currently available and open to help residents and businesses:
Rental Assistance: Since the start of the pandemic the City of Seattle has invested over $18 million in rental assistance to residents facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. These investments support three rental assistance programs, administered by the City and community partners. The United Way Home Base Rental Assistance Program has served over 1,480 Seattle households since April 2020 and will continue to serve new households using City investments through the end of 2020 and into 2021. Renters can learn more about this program and apply for assistance at uwkc.org/renthelp. Emergency rental assistance funds are also available through City-supported Homelessness Prevention Program providers, including El Centro de la Raza, InterIm CDA, Neighborhood House, ReWa, Seattle Indian Health Board, St. Vincent de Paul, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, and YWCA. Additionally, City investments supported over 1,200 renter households living in City-funded rent- and income-restricted affordable housing in April and May, and additional investments made this fall are expected to support approximately 1,300 households through the end of 2020.
Small Business Stabilization Fund: The City has several existing resources to help small businesses stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the City created and launched this fund to provide grants to micro-businesses and small businesses. To date, the City’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has provided 469 small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 with $10,000 grants. OED is accepting applications through November 30, 2020 for $4 million in new Small Business Stabilization Grants.
Utility Discount Program: As of this month, the City of Seattle now enrolled over 42,000 households into the Utility Discount Program (UDP) in 2020—surpassing it’s annual goal—and includes, nearly 10,000 new enrollments through the fast-track application process launched in March to more quickly support customers financially impacted by COVID-19. UDP provides a 60% discount on Seattle City Light (SCL) electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) water/sewer/garbage bills/solid waste for income-eligible customers. To be eligible, your gross median household income must be at or below 70% percent of the state’s median income ($2,966 per month or an annual income of $57,492 for a single- person household and an annual income of $57,492). Additionally, the City created an online UDP self-certification form for customers. This allows income-eligible residential customers to simply complete a short form that attests to their household income, rather than having to initially provide income documentation. Learn more by visiting the UDP website or by calling 206-684-0268.
Grocery Voucher Program and Food Assistance: Launched in March, Seattle’s emergency grocery voucher program provides immediate food support for families in danger of going hungry as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The City has continued to add to the number of households being served as funding has become available. Since the program launched, the City has served over 14,000 eligible households. Currently, 8046 households receive emergency grocery vouchers. Households receive $400 a month for their first three months and then $180 a month for the next four for a maximum of seven months of assistance.
Free Curbside and Street Permits for Restaurants and Small Businesses: The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Fire Department (SFD) also have a variety of options for business owners seeking to expand their operations outdoors, including curbside pickup, free street use and block closure permits, and free tent and heating permits. SDOT’s free street use permits for businesses are available through October 31, 2021. Businesses interested in learning more and applying can visit this website. Since March, SDOT has installed over 1,000 three-minute temporary Food Priority Pick-Up Zones at over 600 restaurants.
Safe and Healthy Streets: In April, 26 miles of Stay Healthy Streets were installed so people can walk, roll, and bike to essential services, support local businesses with pickup or take out, and have a place for recreation while maintaining 6-feet of physical distance. Making it easier for families to stay close to home and for students to be active during remote study, free Stay Healthy Block Permits are also available. Simple guidelines make it easy for residents to notify neighbors of event times and setup the street for COVID-19 safe interactions like kicking a soccer ball, learning to ride a bike, or playing games like Simon Says.
Free Citywide Testing: The City of Seattle continues to offer free COVID-19 testing across Seattle through a partnership with King County and UW Medicine. Drive-through and walk-up testing is available, but residents must first register online. The Seattle Fire Department currently operates four free testing sites in Seattle, and as of November 15, 2020 the SFD sites have conducted over 350,000 tests. Public Health – Seattle & King County recommends that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with someone who has COVID-19 get tested right away. Testing as soon as possible after symptoms appear is important to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to family, friends, and the community. Residents can sign up for a test here.
Where to get the most up-to-date public health information
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DOH, and PHSKC have issued specific guidance to help communities and businesses prepare. You can find guidance for the general public, schools, workplaces and employers, travelers and health care professionals as well as a more detailed Q&A here.
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), CDC
- Novel Coronavirus Outbreak 2020, Washington State Dept. of Health
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Public Health – Seattle & King County