Coronavirus: Opportunities to Help Our Community

A message from one of our partners: Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

I want to share with you two of the ways we are stepping up to help those in need during the outbreak and ways that you can help, too.

We will continue to advocate for more help from the state and federal governments. In the meantime, there are gaps in support that need to be filled and we are working with many partners to try to fill them as quickly as possible.

We have heard loud and clear from vulnerable businesses that cash flow is the number one challenge to their ability to survive. We have been looking at ways that we could reduce some of their costs and, ideally, help their workers at the same time.

We are setting up a fund here at the Chamber called the Keep Workers Safe and Healthy Fund. The fund has two main goals: to keep healthcare coverage intact for employees through April 2020, whether they have employer-sponsored benefits or receive subsidies for health insurance, and keeping employees safe by reimbursing employers for janitorial services, protective equipment, and supplies.

We want to take a cost off the table for vulnerable businesses and help ensure their workers are safe and healthy during the crisis.

The goal for this fund is $10 million. Please contact pledge@seattlechamber.com to make a contribution to this fund. The Chamber is working to set up a website to accept online contributions.

Is this perfect? No. The goal is to get money in and move money out quickly to try to buy time for businesses and workers. This is a stopgap measure that will evolve over time. We are open to suggestions for how to make it better.

I want to share a proposal from Shkelqim Kelmendi, executive director for Housing Connector:

Housing Connector is a B2B organization, incubated and housed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber, partnering with private property owners and managers to reduce barriers and connect families with vacant units in the market. Housing Connector is requesting an initial infusion of funding of $500k to provide emergency rental support to over 570 current residents as well as an additional 100 low-income households facing hardship at Housing Connector property partners in King County.

Currently Housing Connector has housed and supports 570 individuals in over 180 households and partners with over 170 private properties throughout King County. All Housing Connector residents were previously experiencing homelessness and will be disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19, resulting in the need for additional rental support.

To support current and future households with rental payments through August 2020, Housing Connector forecasts a 41% increase in rental payment above budget, resulting in a $200k funding gap.

Beyond current residents, Housing Connector is uniquely positioned to scale and expand housing stability support to more individuals in King County. With established partnerships with properties and build in mechanisms for distributing rental support, Housing Connector can scale to ensure hundreds of additional low-income families and property owners have the safety net to weather these turbulent times. Speed of scale is critical given that April rent payments are two weeks away.

Housing Connector projects that for every $300k in additional funding, 100 households/300 individuals can access emergency rental support through May 2020. Not only does this strategy provide stability to families, it provides financial stability to hundreds of landlords in our community. Donations to Housing Connector can be made to the Chamber Community Foundation. To donate, please contact accounting@seattlechamber.com.

In cooperation with Challenge Seattle and some other key partners, we have set up a webpage with recommendations for organizations that can take contributions now and use that money to help people quickly. You can find those recommendations here.

This is all a work in progress. We are doing what we can. I am asking for your support and your brains to help us continue to find ways to help vulnerable businesses and workers.