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Very small businesses struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic will get another shot at a federal grant via a program the Yakima City Council approved Tuesday.

About $266,000 left over from Yakima’s first round of COVID-driven Community Development Block Grant funding, allocated to the city last April, will be available to qualifying micro-enterprises. A similar program last summer had a $10,000 cap per business, and not all of the money was allocated. There will be no cap this go-round, Senior Assistant City Attorney Sara Watkins said.

“That money could be provided again to micro-enterprises, both those who applied the first time for any additional expenses they can provide reimbursement proof for, as well as any micro-enterprise who might’ve missed the deadline or didn’t know about the grant program,” she said. “They could apply and ask for money for their expenses back to the original date that businesses were shut down.”

The council had asked Watkins to research that question at its Jan. 5 meeting as it discussed how to spend the leftover money along with the roughly $619,000 the city got in a second round of block grant funding in September. At the time, staff had recommended a plan to use $260,000 on needed improvements to the HVAC systems at the Henry Beauchamp Community Center and Washington Fruit Community Center with the remaining money — up to $501,773 — going to the Meals on Wheels senior nutrition program run by the People for People nonprofit.

Because the legal department determined that more of that money could go to micro-enterprises, Meals on Wheels will get $235,195, $260,000 will go to HVAC at the community centers and micro-enterprises will get $266,000.

“I’m glad to see we can dispense almost another $300,000 to struggling small businesses and still fund some other priorities like HVAC and some of our community partners,” Council Member Brad Hill said. “That’s great news, and I’m glad we took the time to do a little bit more exploration.”

The money allocated for small-business grants will be administered by the Yakima County Development Association under a contract with the city. To be eligible, a business must have five or fewer employees including the owner. The owner must make less than 80% of the median income for the surrounding area, thereby meeting the low- or moderate-income standards of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Reach Pat Muir at pmuir@yakimaherald.com.