Case Study: City of Kirkland ARPA Small Business Relief Program
FORWARD Impact in Kirkland, WA
- $330,233 in ARPA funding to 51 small businesses in the City of Kirkland, WA
- Kirkland businesses were awarded an average grant amount of $6,475
- Expanded program by $200,000 due to increased need and general enthusiasm for the program
- Launched, implemented and completed the program in 4 months
“FORWARD as a back office superpower has been invaluable, especially when it comes to assistance programs”.
— Martha Chaudhry, Special Projects, Economic Development at the City of Kirkland, WA
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Washington, the City of Kirkland is a suburban city near several major transportation routes, including Interstate 405 and Interstate 5, connecting the City economically and socially to the greater Seattle area. The tenth largest city in the State of Washington, the City of Kirkland is home to many small businesses and microenterprises that contribute to the culture, diversity, and growth of the Kirkland community.
In late 2021, the City of Kirkland announced a proposal request to administer American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support Kirkland small businesses and microenterprises as the economy moves from crisis response into recovery from the COVID-19 public health pandemic. FORWARD contracted with the City of Kirkland to administer their ARPA Small Business Relief Program in early March.
FORWARD provided a dedicated program management team that worked closely with the City of Kirkland to design, finalize, and implement the end-to-end program administration process to ensure that small business owners are served equitably and that the City stays in compliance with the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Meet the Team
City of Kirkland
Jim Lopez, Deputy City Manager for External Affairs
Martha Chaudhry, Special Projects, Economic Development
Carly Joeger, Management Analyst
FORWARD Program Administration Team
Tim Morones, VP of Operations
James Fisher, Program Manager
Raven McShane, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships
Tina Tran, Marketing Manager
FORWARD Support Team – Technical and application support to applicants
FORWARD Intake Team – Eligibility check and application processing
FORWARD Accounting Team – Fund distribution
|What were the challenges?||FORWARD Solutions|
|Many small businesses and microenterprises in Kirkland did not know about business assistance programs or missed previous funding rounds due to language barriers and limited access to technology.||FORWARD implemented a multilingual marketing strategy and partnered with Kirkland community-based organizations to perform outreach and provide application assistance to target communities.|
|The City of Kirkland needed additional support to process and review applications and distribute funding to small business owners.||FORWARD provided in-house application and payment processing support. FORWARD Intake Specialists helped business owners complete their applications and reviewed and processed applications. The FORWARD accounting team performed an additional review of each application before distributing payment to approved applicants.|
|Many businesses failed to provide qualified revenue loss as a result of COVID in addition to other required documentation to complete their application.||FORWARD worked with the City of Kirkland to design the eligibility criteria to remove barriers in the application process, such as extending the lookback window to 2019 so businesses could show a revenue loss due to COVID-19. As a result, an additional 42 businesses were able to qualify for SBRP funding, totaling $271,950 in grants.|
|The City of Kirkland needed to meet its reporting requirements.||FORWARD provided weekly reports to the City of Kirkland and a final report at the end of the program.|
Ensuring underserved business owners have the opportunity to recover from the pandemic.
Before the Kirkland Small Business Relief Program launch, 45 small business owners applied for a previous round of funding but were not awarded grants. Many of these small businesses and microenterprises are minority-owned and in the application process, faced language barriers, and had difficulty completing the application and providing sufficient documentation. The City of Kirkland wanted to ensure that the unfunded 45 businesses (K-45) had an equitable opportunity to apply for business assistance through the Kirkland Small Business Relief Program.
In early March, FORWARD launched an outreach strategy targeting K-45 business owners and encouraged them to apply to the program before it opened to the general public on March 31st. In collaboration with Martha Chaudhry, Manager of Special Projects, Economic Development, James Fisher, FORWARD Program Manager, proactively reached out to K-45 businesses through email and phone calls. To streamline the application process, business owners could opt-in to immediately transfer their previous application information into the Small Business Relief Program application portal hosted in FORWARD. All 45 businesses who were invited to apply in the first round completed their applications and received an average of grant amount of $7,720
In preparation for the public launch on March 31st, FORWARD implemented a marketing and outreach plan, in collaboration with the City of Kirkland’s Communications team. In addition to media coverage and newsletters, a digital outreach materials in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian was shared with the City of Kirkland and local community-based organizations, including Centro Cultural Mexicano, Bighug Korean American Resource Center, Chinese Information and Service Center, IACS, Business Impact Northwest, Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce, OneEastside, and the Muslim Community Resource Center.
Outreach and Application Portal Traffic
The FORWARD team developed multiple pathways for small business owners to get application support. Small business owners could reach out to FORWARD’s in-house support team which provided multilingual technical assistance through phone, email, and secure chat, or to Centro Cultural Mexicano and Bighug Korean American Resource Center, which were contracted by FORWARD to provide multilingual in-person application support.
FORWARD also looked at ways the eligibility requirements may have imposed barriers to business applicants. One of the eligibility requirements of the Small Business Relief Program was to provide qualified revenue loss due to COVID. Our team quickly realized that many business owners had difficulty showing this revenue loss resulting in incomplete applications, so we worked with the City of Kirkland to extend the lookback window to 2019 so businesses could show a revenue loss as a result of COVID-19. As a result, an additional 42 businesses were able to qualify for SBRP funding, totaling $271,950 in grants.
“I’m so thankful for the grants and the various opportunities the City Kirkland provided to help us stay open and keep our amazing staff. Depending on what kind of business you are and how tech savvy you are, sometimes the application leaves you grasping what exactly, but you were very clear and responsive. If I sent something wrong, you would send it back to me to ensure I submitted the right documentation. Without the grants, we wouldn’t have survived.”
— Elna Duffield, Owner of Kirkland Preschool
Due to the increased need within the small business community and general enthusiasm for the Small Business Relief Program, the City of Kirkland expanded the program by $200,000 and in total distributed $330,233 in ARPA funding to 51 small businesses and microenterprises.
Funds distributed by industry
How businesses will use the funds
“COVID-19 forced the shutdown of our salon for 11 weeks. We had significant costs associated with purchasing sanitation, personal protective equipment, and signage specific to the cosmetology industry. We lost 90% of our staff and had to hire and train a new team of stylists. The City of Kirkland’s Small Business Relief Program provided much-needed funding to assist with the rebuilding of our salon.”
— Cindy Reynolds, Owner of Mermaid Hair Extensions