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.


  • Expanding Outdoor Seating

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    1 day ago

    At it's August 4 meeting, the 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.

    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 and CC patrick.yamashita@mercerisland.gov, sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov, and gareth.reece@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
    • Once your application is approved, you must submit a Certificate of Insurance naming the City as an additional insured. (If you have questions about this requirement, please reach out to me.)
    • Permit duration: Varies (refer to “Permit Process” section on page 2 of ROW permit application for additional details)
    • Permit cost: $347.63
    • City Council approved using small business emergency grant funds to cover this permit fee cost, so local businesses 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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    11 days ago

    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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    15 days ago

    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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    24 days ago

    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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    2 months ago

    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
    Fitness & Training
    Landscaping Services & Outdoor Maintenance
    Library Services
    Manufacturing
    Medical Services
    Outdoor Recreation

    Outdoor Recreation-Golf

    Personal Services
    Pet Grooming
    Pet Walking
    Professional Photography
    Professional Services
    Real Estate
    Religious, Spiritual, & Faith-Based Services
    Restaurants
    Retail

    Curbside Guidance

    Resuming Limited In-Store Retail Operations Guidance

    Sports Activities
    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.

  • Employer Requirements for All Safe Start Phases

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    3 months ago

    The new Safe Start Washington plan outlines a four-phase approach for gradually reopening businesses and facilities statewide. 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 the following required practices for all employers.

    Requirements for All Employers in All Phases

    • Maintain the 6-foot physical distancing requirements for employees and patrons.
      • Adopt other prevention measures such as barriers to block sneezes and coughs when physical distancing is not possible for a particular job task.
    • Provide services while limiting close interactions with patrons.
    • Provide adequate sanitation and personal hygiene for workers, vendors, and patrons.
      • Ensure employees have access to hand washing facilities so they can wash their hands frequently with soap and running water.
    • Ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of the business, particularly of high-touch surfaces.
    • Identify and provide necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and cloth facial coverings in accordance with L&I requirements on facial coverings and industry specific COVID-19 standards.
    • Identify strategies for addressing ill employees, which should include requiring COVID-19 positive employees to stay at home while infectious and potentially restricting employees who were directly exposed to the COVID-19 positive employee.
      • Follow CDC cleaning guidelines to deep clean after reports of an employee with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 illness.
      • This may involve the closure of the business until the location can be properly disinfected.
    • Educate employees about COVID-19 in a language they best understand. The education should include the signs, symptoms, and risk factors associated with COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread.
    • On a case-by-case basis, as directed by federal, state, and local public health and workplace safety officials, implement other practices appropriate for specific types of businesses, such as screening of employees for illness and exposures upon work entry, requiring non-cash transactions, etc.
    • Follow requirements in Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-46 High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights.
    • Keep a safe and healthy facility in accordance with state and federal law, and comply with COVID-19 worksite-specific safety practices, as outlined in Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Proclamation 20-25, and in accordance with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries General Coronavirus Prevention Under Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order and the Washington State Department of Health Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations.


    Businesses are also expected to implement any additional requirements developed specifically for their industry, such as those that have been established for construction.

    More information about Washington's Safe Start Phased Approach to reopening the state can be found here. Challenge Seattle and the Washington Roundtable have also developed a business checklist to help businesses as they prepare to reopen.

  • Extension of City B&O Tax Deadline to Oct 31

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    3 months ago

    At its April 7 video meeting, the Mercer Island City Council passed an ordinance that temporarily allows Island businesses to delay Business and Occupation (B&O) tax payments. Over the past few weeks, the City has heard from the Chamber of Commerce as well as a number of business owners about the undue financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 emergency and mandatory closures.

    For businesses that submit their B&O tax payments quarterly, the Council amended the City’s code allowing the Finance Director to extend payment deadlines this year during the declared COVID-19 emergency. The extensions would apply to businesses earning gross receipts of at least $250,000 per quarter; all other businesses (earning at least $150,001 per year) pay their B&O tax annually.

    The Director has announced that first and second quarter payment deadlines will be extended to October 31, 2020.

  • 5 Tips for the PPP from a Mercer Island Business Owner

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    3 months ago

    An additional $310 billion was added to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on April 24. The Small Business Admistration (SBA) resumes accepting applications for this federal funding source this Monday, April 27, at 7:30am PST.

    If you have not reconnected with your lender about the PPP yet, do so as soon as possible. Likewise, if you have not applied yet, reach out to your bank or find a lender immediately, as these funds will go fast again! You can find a list of eligible lenders using the SBA’s online tool.

    Suzanne Zahr, founder and principal architect at Suzanne Zahr, Inc., received her PPP loan earlier this month. We asked her to share her tips for the process. Keep reading for five tips, from one Mercer Island business owner to another.

    1] Be prepared.

    Lenders require a variety of documents when you submit your application. "I requested info from my accounting manager, CPA, and attorney ahead of time so that all my paperwork was on-hand and ready to upload," says Zahr. She operates S Corporations and was required to submit the following:

    • Payroll documentation (W3 / W2 reports and 941 tax filings)
    • Payroll calculation x2.5 (make sure you understand what does and does not qualify)
    • Summary of health benefits and retirement contributions
    • Business License / Certificate of Formation
    • Articles of Incorporation
    • Bylaws
    • List of business owners
    • Recent meeting minutes
    • Name-change documents (if applicable)
    • Information about affiliated businesses
    • ACH Deposit information

    Talk with your accountant, lender, or other financial experts you work with to ensure you have the correct documentation for your business type. Startup425 has also launched new services to assist local businesses on the Eastside during the COVID-19 crisis. If you need technical assistance for the PPP or the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), consider reaching out to one of their advisors.


    2] Queue up quickly.

    Hop on your lender's application page early to ensure you're in line when the application reopens at 7:30am on Monday. "I literally sat at my laptop refreshing my bank's application page until their link was published [and] then quickly submitted my application of interest," says Zahr.


    3] Be redundant, and be a squeaky wheel.

    From lack of communication with business owners to application webpages crashing, we've seen many challenges on the lender side during the PPP process. Zahr recommends that business owners continually follow up with their lenders instead of waiting to hear from them. And, if your lender isn't being helpful, consider finding another bank or credit union. "After realizing that my bank wasn’t being as responsive as I’d hoped, I started to ask around to fellow small biz owners to see if they’ve had any success," says Zahr. "I was introduced to a small community bank (one that I hadn’t even heard of prior), and they were the ones that ultimately got it done! I also appreciated having direct access to a live human being instead of just a weblink and emailed form letters."

    If you're struggling to find a local lender, use the SBA's online tool: https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find


    4] Borrow only what will be forgiven.

    "It's always been my intention to keep my team intact," says Zahr. "This SBA loan will keep us going without depleting our company savings. This allows us to come out of the gate strong once we're released to work safely." The PPP aims to help businesses weather about eight weeks of economic impact and is up to 100% forgivable if you use it for eligible expenses.

    However, consider how much debt you take on when accepting funding. "Many [businesses] need this money to ease cashflow concerns, so only take what you need to get by. If you're looking for more than this program provides, seek other small business loan options," says Zahr.

    The most recent funding bill also replenished the SBA'S Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term support during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more about the EIDL here. Businesses can apply for both the PPP and EIDL.


    5] Take deep breaths, and know you're not alone.

    "Though this health crisis is scary and can cause great anxiety in our small business community, I’m encouraged by the immense support, grace, and camaraderie shown by our competitors, clients, collaborators, and local leaders," says Zahr. "Now that Governor Inslee has allowed Washington to restart construction with heightened safety protocols in place, fellow General Contractors on Mercer Island (led by Jamie Hsu of Lakeville Homes) have banded together in support of obtaining the proper PPE and sharing knowledge through our local industry organizations. At a time when we’ve otherwise been in competition with each other, we’re now arm-in-arm assisting in each other’s re-launch, always with the well being of our collective health and prosperity in mind."


    Many thanks to Suzanne Zahr for sharing these tips! She also shared helpful information for local business owners on her blog, and we continue to update Let's Talk with information to help small businesses through this difficult time.

    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.


  • 12 Resources to Help You Keep Customers Engaged During COVID-19

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    4 months ago

    Many local businesses are struggling to connect with their customer base during the COVID-19 crisis. As the State's stay-at-home order continues, finding ways to keep your community engaged with your business is critical. Click through the links below for tips and tutorials for messaging, creating content, selecting social media platforms, and more to help you navigate the digital marketing world and reach your customers where they are right now.


    Marketing Tips from Mailchimp

    Digital marketing powerhouse Mailchimp has provided a range of digital marketing resources for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis as well as has an archive of fantastic articles to help your business delve into digital or expand your existing efforts. Some highlights include:


    Visit mailchimp.com/resources/ for more resources.


    Webinars and Workshops to Watch

    Many local, state, and national entities offer free webinars and online workshops to small businesses to help them weather the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on their organizations. Here are a few upcoming webinars that may be helpful when evolving your customer engagement strategy:


    SMART Webinar: Future of Retail

    Date: Friday, April 24, 2020 | Time: 11am-1pm

    Presented by: The Southside Mitigation and Recovery Taskforce (SMART)

    How consumers interact with businesses has already changed drastically during this pandemic, and we can anticipate that shopping habits will continue in this “new normal” even after the economy starts to reopen. This would be a great webinar for customer-facing and brick-and-mortar businesses on the Island.


    Recovery Readiness: Digital Marketing

    Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2020 | Time: 1-2pm

    Presented by: Washington Small Business Development Center

    This webinar covers digital marketing steps you can take on the road to recovery. It will explore

    • Ways to post online and stay engaged during this time
    • Potential scenarios for changing consumer behaviors
    • Considerations for moving your business online


    Expert Advice on Critical Ways to Keep Customers Engaged During Coronavirus

    Date/Time: Previously recorded | Presented by: US Chamber of Commerce

    This webinar looks at how a few small businesses around the country have adapted their customer engagement strategies and offers tips for messaging, social media, and other aspects of marketing.


    Looking for more webinars and workshops? Check out these regional and national resources for ongoing content updates:

    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.

  • Apply for a Small Business Grant from Facebook today!

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    4 months ago

    In an effort to assist small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 emergency, tech giant Facebook launched its Small Business Grants Program. The company is offering $100m in cash grants and ad credits to help in this challenging time,

    Up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries where we operate will be able to receive the grant. The program opened to businesses in New York City and the Seattle area first; to be eligible to apply, you must:

    • Be a for-profit company
    • Employ between 2 and 50 employees
    • Have been in business for over a year
    • Have experienced challenges from COVID-19
    • Be in or near a location where Facebook operates

    Many Mercer Island businesses likely qualify for this program; review the application guide and consider applying today!

    Start the application process here.

    Applications for Seattle-area businesses close at 11:59pm on Wednesday, May 6.