COVID-19 Resources for Businesses

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The City of Mercer Island recognizes the severe business impacts of the coronavirus measures being implemented across the region. We understand that business owners and employees have many questions surrounding the virus and its effect on business operations and economic security.

To assist in answering those questions, we have compiled resources from national, state, county, and regional organizations for your reference.

Always remember to document your individual or business-related financial impacts. This may help you receive compensation either through your insurance or through potential relief efforts by state or federal agencies.

As the virus spreads, most establishments will be challenged by additional State mandates, special cleaning needs, and reduced staffing or fewer customers due to quarantine concerns. The City is working closely with the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce to provide information specific to local businesses.


The City of Mercer Island recognizes the severe business impacts of the coronavirus measures being implemented across the region. We understand that business owners and employees have many questions surrounding the virus and its effect on business operations and economic security.

To assist in answering those questions, we have compiled resources from national, state, county, and regional organizations for your reference.

Always remember to document your individual or business-related financial impacts. This may help you receive compensation either through your insurance or through potential relief efforts by state or federal agencies.

As the virus spreads, most establishments will be challenged by additional State mandates, special cleaning needs, and reduced staffing or fewer customers due to quarantine concerns. The City is working closely with the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce to provide information specific to local businesses.


  • $270k in Grant Funding for Mercer Island Businesses and Nonprofits

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    21 Oct 2020
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    The City of Mercer Island recognizes that the COVID-19 Pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on many of the Island’s small businesses and nonprofits. These organizations provide services, create jobs, generate sales tax revenue, and are vital to the Island’s quality of life and sense of community. As part of the recovery effort, the City is offering one-time grants to these organizations.

    The Mercer Island COVID-19 Relief for Small Businesses Grant Program will assist organizations who have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, including those organizations that were required to modify or close operations per the guidelines outlined in Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Washington Plan and other COVID-19 related mandates. With this grant program, we hope Island businesses and nonprofits can remain open, retain/hire employees, and stay in business to continue serving the Mercer Island community.

    The program is funded entirely by CARES Act federal stimulus funds provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury to the State of Washington. Governor Inslee awarded local governments $300 million of the State’s CARES funding in early May and allocated an additional $125 million to local governments on August 31. On Tuesday, October 20, Mercer Island City Council approved the grant program and allocated $270,000 of the City's second round of CARES Act funding to it.

    Keep reading for more program details and to apply.


    Program Details

    • Grants will be awarded in a single amount that is expected to be no less than $5,000 to each recipient. The final award amount will be determined based on available funding and number of eligible applicants.
    • Grant recipients will be selected from a pool of eligible applications via a lottery system. All eligible applications will be sorted into three prioritization pools as described below. A committee comprised of City staff and City Council members will review the lottery selection and recommend grant awards to City Council for approval at its November 2, 2020, regular meeting.
    • Eligible expenses are those that will have occurred from March 1, 2020, to November 30, 2020, must be directly related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and have not previously been paid for by other COVID- 19 relief grant/loan programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program.
    • Once awarded, grant recipients will be required to enter a Subrecipient Agreement with the City to enable the City to fulfill its reporting requirements for how the funds were spent.


    Qualifying Expenses

    Per guidance from the Attorney General’s Office, grant funds will be provided to organizations that can demonstrate that the grant will prevent the organization from closing permanently and/or will assist with costs to comply with public health guidelines. Grant funds can be used to cover the costs of business interruption due to the COVID-19 Pandemic because of required closures, voluntary closures to promote physical distancing, decreased customer demand, and other Pandemic-related disruptions due to the. Eligible expenses are those occurring from March 1 through November 30, 2020, and include:

    • Rent, mortgage, and non-City utilities payments for the business/organization brick-and-mortar location;
    • Payroll expenses (provided that those expenses have not already been reimbursed by other federal, state, county, or regional grants/loans such as the Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan);
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and/or sanitation supplies, equipment, and services needed to safely reopen;
    • Temporary or permanent changes made to business operations due to the COVID-19 Pandemic (e.g. pivoting to e-business and delivery, limiting in-store service, shifting to telework, etc.).

    Grant funds may be taxable income. Recipients are advised to consult with their tax advisors for guidance. A 1099 Form will be issued to each grant recipient as required by the IRS no later than January 31, 2021.


    Eligibility Criteria

    To qualify for a grant, an organization must:

    • Be a small business (as defined by the US Small Business Administration size standards) or 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, other than regional/national chain businesses and home-based businesses;
    • Have a customer-facing physical location within Mercer Island city limits;
    • Have been in operation as of January 1, 2020;
    • Have an active City of Mercer Island Business license and be in good standing with the City of Mercer Island and the State of Washington;
    • Demonstrate hardship due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, such as revenue loss, requirement to purchase PPE and other equipment, etc.; and
    • Be able to explain how funding can be used in the immediate term to stabilize or sustain your organization and/or benefit the public, such as jobs created/saved, amount of tax revenue created/maintained, and whether the grant would help your organization avoid bankruptcy or permanent closure.


    APPLY TODAY!

    The application opens Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at 9:00am, and closes Thursday, October 29, 2020, at 5:00pm. Before you apply, make sure you:

    1. Confirm your eligibility (see criteria listed above). If you are unsure of whether your organization is eligible, contact Sarah Bluvas at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov.
    2. Locate your Mercer Island Business License number (UBI number) and verify that your license is up-to- date.

    Once you confirm your eligibility and business license, apply online:

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MIsmallbizgrants


    The application is also available to download here: https://letstalk.mercergov.org/5278/widgets/16591/documents/15094

    If you choose to complete the paper application, please submit to Sarah Bluvas at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov. Include "Mercer Island COVID-19 Relief Grant Program" in the subject line. Only one application per organization will be considered.

    Remember, the deadline to apply is Thursday, October 29, 2020, at 5:00pm.


    Other Useful Information

    How will applications be evaluated?

    City staff will evaluate applications based on the eligibility criteria outlined in this document. All eligible applicants will then be placed into a lottery system. Eligible applicants will be sorted into one of three pools according to the following priorities:

    • Pool 1: Businesses and nonprofits such as Food & Drink Establishments (restaurants, bars, etc.); Retail (boutiques, bookstores, specialty shops, florists, etc.); Personal Service Providers (hair salons, nail salons, estheticians, dry cleaners, etc.); Fitness Studios; Education/Childcare Service Providers (daycare, preschool, etc.); and Entertainment/Arts/Recreation Service Providers
    • Pool 2: Other businesses and nonprofits such as Professional Service Providers (financial services, real estate, architects, etc.) and Health & Wellness Providers (doctors, dentists, physical therapists, etc.)
    • Pool 3: All other eligible applicants

    Funds will be allocated based on the priorities outlined above, with awards being selected by lottery in the following order:

    1. Select from Pool 1 by lottery until all funds are allocated or all Pool 1 applicants are awarded
    2. Select from Pool 2 by lottery until all funds are allocated or all Pool 2 applicants are awarded
    3. Select from Pool 3 by lottery until all funds are allocated or all Pool 3 applicants are awarded

    Once the lottery selection is complete, a committee comprised of City staff and City Council liaisons will conduct a final review of the awards to ensure eligibility. The City aims to distribute the grant funds in accordance with the priorities listed above and to as many businesses as possible within the timeframe prescribed by the CARES Act.

    Notification Timeline & Grant Disbursement

    • October 21: Application opens
    • October 29: Application closes
    • October 30-November 1: Lottery selection for grant recipients and internal review by City staff/City Council
    • November 2: City Council approves grant awards
    • November 3-15: City announces awards and contracts with grant recipients
    • December 2020: Funds distributed to recipients

    Privacy Information

    This application and any supporting documentation are considered a public record and may be subject to public disclosure under Washington’s Public Records Act, Chapter 42.56 RCW.

  • Newly Announced $15 Million Federal Grant Supports Safe Start Projects and Partnerships Aimed at Helping Washington Businesses

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    13 Oct 2020
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    A $15 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, one of the largest such grants in the nation, will support a number of initiatives ultimately aimed at helping Washington small businesses and strengthening core industry clusters.

    In support of the state’s Safe Start efforts, the Washington State Department of Commerce spearheaded a unique collaboration among public, private and philanthropic organizations to help keep small businesses open, protect and create jobs, while also looking ahead to strengthen key sectors in the future.

    The projects recently received a $15 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, one of the largest such grants in the nation.

    The grant funds will support a number of initiatives ultimately aimed at helping Washington small businesses and strengthening core industry clusters. Some of the projects are new, but several build off existing efforts.

    Restart projects include technical assistance for businesses and entrepreneurs in underrepresented and underserved communities as well as a first-of-its-kind COVID-19 modeling project that will help predict and prevent outbreaks so that essential, high-risk businesses such as fisheries, food processors and meat packers can reopen and stay open safely.

    Rebuild projects provide businesses an array of training and coaching services to help them retool or rethink their operations.

    Commerce partnered with Washington State University’s Small Business Development Center, the non-profit collaborative Restart Partners, the Association of Washington Business, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension partner Impact Washington, the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the state’s public-private maritime industry cluster organization Washington Maritime Blue, the non-profit community development financial institution National Development Council (NDC), and the Thurston Economic Development Council.

    Under the grant, Commerce and its partners will develop and provide a broad range of support to help small businesses address key areas of need, such as prevention of COVID infection and transmission, connections to financial resources for immediate and future resiliency, and technical assistance to help manufacturers adapt for safe yet efficient operations.

    Some programs are already underway while others are still being developed. Current programs include:

    Safe Start

    On Oct. 8, 2020, the Governor announced that a $15 million federal EDA grant has been awarded to support several Safe Start projects that will allow Commerce and a network of community partners to provide technical support and assistance to small businesses. Those projects are under development and information will be available here as they become operational. You can read more about the projects and partners here.

    Community Small Business Resiliency Grant Program – Apply

    $5 million in federal CARES Act funds has been allocated to this grant program. Successful grant applicants will be eligible for up to $10,000. A business owner with more than one business may apply, but each business application requires a unique state UBI number or Tribal Letter/Certification. Grant awards cannot be used to reimburse personal expenses (i.e., home mortgage, personal utilities), pay state or federal taxes or lobbying expenses/activities. More information on the program and eligibility. | Application

    Working Washington Small Business Grants: Round 2

    Commerce is funding an additional $10 million in small business grants. In contrast to Round 1, these grants will be administered and managed by our local associate economic development organizations, not Commerce. For more information and to apply, contact the organization designated for your county using the provided links.

    Small Business Resiliency Assistance

    The effects of COVID-19 have negatively affected Washington’s small businesses across the state. Those in marginalized communities have been hit especially hard. We are investing in and partnering with organizations that provide linguistically and culturally appropriate assistance to these business owners.

    Federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance

    This loan advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties that does not have to be repaid. In the latest package, Congress appropriated an additional $10 billion for this program. This complements the traditional SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program which has been in place for the entire nation, all territories and Washington, D.C. since mid-March. Approval notification is estimated at approximately three days.

    And more. For information about the various programs supporting small businesses, visit the Commerce webpage at http://bit.ly/wa-covid19.

  • Grants Available for Art and Cultural Organizations Through WA DOC

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    08 Oct 2020
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    ArtsWA CARES Act Relief Grants available to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

    The Washington State Department of Commerce and ArtsWA, Washington's state Arts Commission, have partnered to provide federal CARES Act funding to art and cultural organizations impacted by COVID-19.

    Grants are available up to $10,000 each, and no funding match is required. Download application guidelines here.

    Who is Eligible?

    • Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and have current federal tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, including those affiliated with tribal organizations.
    • Fiscally sponsored groups and organizations that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note: Fiscally sponsored applicants must be sponsored by nonprofit organizations that have arts, culture, and/or heritage in their mission statement.

    Who Is Not Eligible?

    • Individuals
    • For-profit organizations
    • Political or advocacy organizations
    • Government agencies, universities, colleges, academic departments, or entities with significant public funding
    • Organizations based outside of Washington
    • Washington State law prohibits funding of parochial schools or other organizations with a religious affiliation or purpose

    For information about the application process, criteria, and more, visit https://www.arts.wa.gov/cares-act-grants/

  • Governor Relaxes Some Phase 2 Restrictions

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    08 Oct 2020
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    Newly relaxed restrictions on movie theaters, restaurants, real estate, youth sports, adult recreation, league games, and more.

    On October 6, Governor Inslee announced more activities will be permitted in each county statewide, depending on their specific Recovery Phase.

    Under the new protocols, in Phase 2 counties, movie theaters will be able to operate at 25% capacity, but facial coverings and 6 feet of distance between households will be required.

    In addition, restaurants in Phase 2 counties can now serve alcohol until 11:00pm (instead of 10:00pm), maximum table size has been increased to six individuals, and indoor dining groups need not be comprised solely of household members.

    Real estate open houses will now be allowed within each county’s size-limit for gatherings, and some indoor activity is allowed at libraries, at 25% occupancy.

    Additional protocols will also be released for a variety of outdoor group sports with more than a dozen participants, such as: bicycle rides, fun runs and marathons, kayak and canoe races, triathlons, ski races, and others.

    More youth sports and adult recreation, including some league games, in both indoor and outdoor settings, will be allowed depending on specific risk factors for each sport, without spectators. Youth football is not yet allowed due to the amount of close contact.

    Wedding reception limits in Phase 2 Counties remain at 30 individuals.

    Click on the links below for Phase 2 updates:

    For updated information for occupancy loads during Phase 2, review this help sheet provided by the Mercer Island Fire Marshal: Phase 2 Occupancy Load Help Sheet - UPDATED

    All issued guidance is posted on the Governor’s COVID-19 webpage.

  • Results from the Mercer Island Business Survey

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    Earlier this summer, we collaborated with local consulting firm Hardwick Research, the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from the Mercer Island business community to conduct a survey of all Island businesses. This project was funded via the Port of Seattle Economic Development Partnership grant program and had two main goals:

    1. Gather information regarding issues facing the Mercer Island business community, focusing primarily on COVID-19 related impacts
    2. Gather baseline data for long-range economic and community development efforts

    The online survey was sent out to the more than 1,300 businesses registered on Mercer Island, and we received 269 individual responses (~20% response rate).


    Click the graph above to read the full report PDF.

    Key Findings

    • The biggest challenges facing Mercer Island businesses due to the COVID-19 crisis include: a decline in business, understanding the State's COVID-19 phases and rules, and understanding Federal loan programs for COVID-19 impacts
    • More than half of respondents have sought financial assistance during the pandemic, with most (39%) taking advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program.
    • Only about a third of survey participants were aware of the City's Let's Talk page sharing COVID-19 resources for local businesses.
    • Overall, business want information, connections, and City programs/assistance during and after the COVID-19 crisis.


    The full report, including detailed findings, recommendations from Hardwick Research, and the survey questions, can be viewed here.


    Over the next several months, City staff will work with City Council, the Chamber, and local businesses to translate the results into continued and new actions to support our local business community. Stay tuned to Let's Talk for exciting updates, including information about a new marketing campaign launching in October to support Island businesses.

    The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during this uncertain time. Contact Sarah Bluvas, EOC Small Business Liaison, at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov to let us know how we can help.

  • Expanding Outdoor Seating

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    06 Aug 2020
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    At its August 4 meeting, City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that provides more flexibility to local restaurants and taverns who wish to add outdoor seating to their establishment. We hope the relaxed requirements will help local businesses continue to navigate new restrictions during Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan.

    Businesses interested in expanding seating capacity via outdoor seating have two options, outlined below. If you are not sure which option is right for you, please contact Sarah Bluvas at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov.

    Temporary Use of ROW for Outdoor Dining

    Businesses who wish to expand into public rights-of-way (ROW) must apply for a permit. Here are the steps for applying:

    1. Complete the ROW application: https://www.mercerisland.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/community_planning_amp_development/page/24451/commerce_on_public_property.pdf
    2. Develop your site plan (refer to page 3 of the ROW permit application for additional details)
    3. E-mail your completed application to epermittech@mercerisland.gov (please also copy patrick.yamashita@mercerisland.gov and sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov). Reference "Temporary use of ROW for Outdoor Dining" in the e-mail subject line.

    Additional information related to this option:

    • Estimated time of review/approval: 3 business days
    • Permit duration: Varies (refer to “Permit Process” section on page 2 of ROW permit application for additional details)
    • Before a permit can be approved, businesses must submit a Certificate of Insurance naming the City as an additional assured. (If you have questions about this requirement, please contact Sarah Bluvas at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov.)
    • Permit cost: $347.63 - City Council approved using small business emergency grant funds to cover this permit fee cost, so local business will not be required to submit payment.


    Converting Private Parking for Outdoor Dining

    Businesses adjacent to private parking lots may now convert parking stalls for outdoor dining, provided that the business:

    • Is permitted to operate per the Safe Start phased reopening plan
    • Obtains approval from the landlord/property owner

    If you are a business attached to a private parking lot, the City encourages you to work with your landlord as well as your neighbors to identify an outdoor seating solution that works for everyone. Converting private parking for outdoor dining does not require a permit at this time.


    Using Tents in Your New Outdoor Seating Area

    If you plan to use a tent or canopy in your new outdoor seating area, please limit your tent size to 400 square feet. Any tents exceeding this size are subject to an operation permit and review by the City’s Fire Marshal (per Chapter 31 of the International Fire Code).


    The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during this uncertain time. Contact Sarah Bluvas, EOC Small Business Liaison, at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov to let us know how we can help.

  • Webinar Recording: New Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants (SSTAR) Program

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    28 Jul 2020
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    King County is launching the Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants (SSTAR) on August 3rd. Business owners are invited to participate in a webinar to learn more about the program.

    Updated August 3, 2020: Public Health — Seattle & King County is striving for a safe reopening so King County residents can get back to the activities they enjoy. In an effort to help restaurants and food establishments reopen and operate safely, and to keep us on the path to further reopening, King County launched the Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants (SSTAR) on August 3rd. Click here to watch the informational webinar.

    SSTAR provides education and materials to help restaurants implement state and public health guidance. It also increases the accountability of restaurants to abide by the health and safety standards that support a safe reopening.

    Come and learn more about what to expect from this new program and get your questions answered.

  • Additional Phase 2 Guidelines for Restaurants, Taverns, and Fitness Studios - UPDATED 07.31.20

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    24 Jul 2020
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    Governor Inslee announced changes to the Safe Start phased approach to reopening. The new rollbacks target activities that data have shown create a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.

    Since the governor announced the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order four months ago, COVID-19 cases in Washington have risen from 2,000 to nearly 50,000, and deaths have increased from 110 to nearly 1,500.

    To combat these rising numbers, Governor Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman adjusted the Safe Start guidance and regulations for restaurants, bars, gyms/fitness studios, and other activities.

    Below we outline the updated Phase 2 guidelines that apply to Mercer Island businesses and are now in effect. Read more about other impacted activities here.

    Restaurants, Taverns, and Other Eating & Drinking Establishments

    • Indoor dining at restaurants limited to parties of household members only (outdoor dining and take out still available for customers/small parties from different households)
    • Indoor service is prohibited at taverns, breweries, wineries, & distilleries unless certain food service is provided (outdoor service guidelines remain in effect)
    • Bar-seating is prohibited (counter-style seating permitted in other areas)
    • Alcohol service must end at 10pm
    • Game and social areas must close (pool tables, dart boards, video games, etc.)

    Read the updated guidelines here.


    Gyms & Fitness Studios

    • Indoor fitness services limited to five participants (not including staff)


    Read the other current Safe Start Guidelines here.


    In addition to these rollbacks, Secretary Wiesman also expanded the face coverings order. Beginning Saturday, July 25, face coverings are required in all common spaces, including elevators, hallways/shared spaces in apartment buildings, assisted living facilities, and more.


    The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during this uncertain time. Contact Sarah Bluvas, EOC Small Business Liaison, at sarah.bluvas@mercergov.org to let us know how we can help.

  • Governor's Face Covering Order: Resources for Businesses

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    15 Jul 2020
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    The Governor's Order is in effect, requiring businesses not to serve unmasked patrons (with limited exemptions). Businesses can learn more from State's business guidance resources.

  • Resources for Business Reopening & Recovery

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    08 Jun 2020
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    On May 1, Governor Inslee announced an extension of his existing Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order through May 31 and unveiled Safe Start Washington, a four-phase plan that will be used to stage the gradual reopening of businesses and facilities statewide. Each phase will last for at least three weeks in order to gather health data and evaluate continued advances.

    It is crucial to maintain some level of community interventions to suppress the spread of COVID-19 throughout all phases of recovery until there is an effective vaccine, effective treatment, or herd immunity. Each phase, while allowing for additional services to open and return to full capacity, is grounded in required practices for all employers.

    This page compiles resources intended to assist local businesses in safely reopening through the state's phased approach. Check back often for more resources.

    Safe Start Washington: A Phased Approach to Recovery


    Infographic detailing the four phases outlined in the Safe Start Washington plan



    Industry-Specific Guidelines

    Below we link to the industry-specific guidelines issued by Governor Inslee's office. Don't see your business's industry listed? That may mean that the Governor has not published guidelines for your specific industry yet. We will update this listing as soon as guidelines become available.

    Car Wash Services
    Construction
    Domestic Services
    Drive-In Theaters

    Movie Theaters

    Miscellaneous Venues
    Fitness & Training
    Landscaping Services & Outdoor Maintenance
    Library Services
    Manufacturing
    Medical Services
    Outdoor Recreation & Sporting Activities

    Outdoor Recreation

    Sporting Activities

    Personal Services
    Pet Grooming
    Pet Walking
    Professional Photography
    Professional Services
    Real Estate
    Religious, Spiritual, & Faith-Based Services
    • Phases One-Three Guidance
      • Memorandum on Conducting Religious, Spiritual, & Faith-Based Drive-in Service
      • FAQ for for Religious and Faith-Based Organizations from Public Health - Seattle & King County
    Restaurants
    Retail

    Curbside Guidance

    Resuming Limited In-Store Retail Operations Guidance

    Weddings, Funeral and Memorial Services
    Vehicle & Vessel Sales


    - - - - - - - - - -

    Other Useful Reopening Resources

    Federal & State Guidelines

    Reopening Toolkits and Databases

    Industry-Specific Resources

    Webinar Recordings


    The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during this uncertain time. Contact Sarah Bluvas, Small Business Liaison, at sarah.bluvas@mercergov.org to let us know how we can help.