SEATTLE — When Binko Chiong-Bisbee got the call, she knew it was going to cost her.
Someone had broken out the windows and scratched profanities onto the front of her gallery, KOBO Seattle in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
“Each pane had to be replaced. I worried how we were going to pay for it. Do I go through insurance? I have a very high deductible,” Chiong-Bisbee told KOMO News.
In total, 19 windows were broken and the damage cost about $7,000 to fix. “It’s written in our lease that we have to fix the window. Things were not repaired all at one, we had to wait many, many months to get estimates,” Chiong-Bisbee said.
Her business is one of 173 in the city that has received payments from Seattle’s storefront repair fund, which was announced last fall.
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“It’s already costly to do business, especially for small businesses coming through the pandemic. Graffiti, broken windows, public disorder are all challenges ground-floor storefront owners are facing," said Markham McIntyre, the director of Seattle's Office of Economic Development.
According to McIntyre's office, 544 applications have been received for the storefront repair fund since applications opened in October.
Of those applications, 151 were disqualified, according to the city. Because the fund comes from federal pandemic relief money, businesses have to meet a myriad of eligibility requirements. Those include having less than 50 full-time employees, making less than $ 7 million in annual net revenue, operating a physical location, and having been in business for at least two years, among other requirements.
“Overall it has been well received, but we know there’s more we need to do. We’ve been working through the process to make things go more smoothly," McIntyre said.
The fund has $2 million to distribute and businesses can get loans of up to $2,000 for damage that occurred after Jan. 1, 2021.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said during his state of the city address in February that he is "bullish" on the return of businesses in the city's downtown core.
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“Our plan recognizes that downtown safety concerns are real,” he said. “If we don’t create a safe, welcoming downtown for everyone, everything else we do will fall flat," Harrell said.
Chiong-Bisbee, the store owner who was helped by the city's repair fund, said even a few thousand dollars can go a long way in helping businesses navigate the challenges of operating in Seattle right now.
"I think as a small business owner, I want to play my part and just being part of this vital community. We’re here to stay and we’re just so grateful the city can give us some help," she said.