FORWARD Impact in Washington State
- Distributed $79,002,616 in grants to more than 1,450 eligible hospitality businesses that sustained negative economic impacts due to the COVID-19 public health emergency
- Facilitated a lodging carve out to grant $3,180,418 to 31 lodging establishments that experienced losses during the State’s eviction moratorium
- Provided training materials and support to help businesses obtain their Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number. 100% of businesses awarded a grant were able to provide their UEI, eliminating the risk of funding denial due to missing UEI
- Collaborated with a coalition of community-based organizations to provide outreach and program support
“We were contemplating the idea of closing our doors. The grant gave us some breathing room and a fighting chance to continue serving our community and visitors, alike.”
Ket Voang, Operator of Midtown Public House, WA Hospitality Grant Awardee
In January 2023, the Washington State Department of Commerce partnered with FORWARD to distribute grants to eligible hospitality businesses in Washington that sustained negative economic impacts due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The Washington Hospitality Grants Program was directed by the Washington State Legislature through ESSB 5693 to appropriate $100 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief funds through a grant program for qualifying hospitality businesses. FORWARD provided comprehensive program administration support, which included program design, application intake and review, award distribution, fraud prevention and reporting. FORWARD worked closely with Commerce to design a program that ensured equitable distribution of funds by considering businesses operating in distressed counties and/or owned by individuals from historically disadvantaged or underserved populations.
The Washington Hospitality Grants Program successfully administered $79,002,616 to 1,493 businesses, distributing an average award of $52,986.
|What challenges did the WA Department of Commerce face prior to working with FORWARD?||What solutions did FORWARD provide?|
|Many eligible businesses were unaware of the program.||In partnership with BDS Planning & Urban Design, FORWARD conducted outreach and awareness campaigns extensively beginning in February 2023. Marketing and outreach for this program included email campaigns, presentations, social media, online advertising, and radio. As part of the marketing and outreach for this program, FORWARD hosted 12 partner presentations and train-the-trainers events, with 286 people in attendance. In addition, FORWARD hosted three live, public webinars with 447 people in attendance.|
|Many businesses operating in distressed areas or owned by historically disadvantaged individuals did not have an UEI number.||FORWARD developed a solution tailored to support businesses in distressed areas or those owned by historically disadvantaged individuals, who faced challenges in acquiring a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number. Recognizing the barriers these businesses encountered, FORWARD’s application process was designed to collect essential data for funding evaluation without requiring a UEI at the initial stage. Beyond facilitating the application process, FORWARD actively collaborated with local and state partners to deliver targeted training and guidance, empowering applicants in navigating the process of obtaining a UEI. This initiative ensured that no business was excluded from funding opportunities due to the absence of a UEI. By offering these comprehensive resources and support, FORWARD reinforced its commitment to inclusive assistance, ensuring equitable access to funding for all businesses, regardless of their starting point in the administrative landscape.|
|Some business owners faced language and technology barriers and did not have access to user-friendly tools or application support.||To support business owners who faced language and/or technology barriers, FORWARD designed a user-friendly online application available in 68 languages and offered multilingual technical assistance via phone, text, and email.|
|The Washington State Department of Commerce needed program support to implement a lodging establishment carve out to target lodging establishments impacted by the state’s moratorium on evictions.||During the program design phase, FORWARD hosted town hall meetings with lodging establishment owners to better understand their pandemic losses and to establish a reasonable verification process. FORWARD then used this information to build an application that allowed lodging establishments to easily highlight their eligible losses.|
|There was no existing system to prevent fraud.||FORWARD specialists were trained to identify and prevent fraud during the application process. 37 cases of fraud were identified, saving the State $1,960,517.15.|
Designing program guidelines and processes with equity in mind
In collaboration with the Washington State Department of Commerce, FORWARD aimed to provide grants to eligible hospitality businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while focusing on businesses operating in distressed areas or owned by historically disadvantaged individuals.
As part of FORWARD’s efforts to ensure that this program was accessible and equitable to as many Washington hospitality businesses as possible, FORWARD worked with the Washington State Department of Commerce to design funding rubrics that represented the unique needs of hospitality businesses. Many hospitality businesses lacked the required UEI number to receive grant funds . FORWARD created a comprehensive support process to help businesses obtain their UEI number This support included actively collaborating with local and state partners to deliver targeted training and guidance, empowering applicants in navigating the process of obtaining a UEI. This initiative ensured that no business was excluded from funding opportunities due to the absence of a UEI.
To ensure equitable funding distribution that was inclusive of lodging establishments, FORWARD hosted town hall meetings with lodging establishment owners in order to better understand the economic toll of the State’s eviction moratorium and to establish a fair and equitable verification process. This information was then used by FORWARD to build an application that allowed lodging establishments to easily highlight eligible losses.
Multichannel marketing campaigns to reach target communities
FORWARD launched a targeted marketing and outreach strategy in collaboration with BDS Urban Planning, focusing on reaching target hospitality businesses while also creating material inclusive of the communities within Washington. Materials were made available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Ukrainian, Tagalog, Somali, Korean, Arabic, Punjabi, Amharic, Khmer, Chinese (Mandarin), Lao, and Marshallese. Special focus was given to the state’s Spanish-speaking and Tribal populations. A radio interview with Spanish-speaking station, Centro Cultural Mexicano, was conducted, and a targeted social media ads campaign was conducted specific to Tribal populations.
Partnering with trusted messengers to reach underserved businesses
In addition to inclusive collateral, FORWARD and BDS Urban Planning collaborated with 179 Washington-based community partner organizations to host presentations and events attended by over 600 people.
In response to a lower application rate in some counties, FORWARD provided additional outreach in partnership with 20 community-based organizations in Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Chelan, and Cork counties to boost engagement.
To reach underserved business owners, FORWARD and BDS Urban Planning partnered with community-based organizations throughout the state of Washington, including OneEastside SPARK, Small Business Resiliency Network (SBRN), Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA), Korean Hotel Association, African American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Northwest (AACCPNW), and the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development to act as local trusted messengers, promoting the program and providing on-the-ground application assistance while reaching more diverse communities.
“Due to your support, we have a slim chance of courage for survival again. Like most restaurants, we suffered serious financial damages from the pandemic, but now we’re gradually improving.”
Jong Lee, Owner, Shogun Inc. WA Hospitality Grant Awardee
Accelerating small business economic recovery in Washington
The partnership between FORWARD, the Washington State Department of Commerce, BDS Urban Planning, and Washington community-based organizations, has been instrumental in the success of the Washington Hospitality Grants Program. Together, over $79 million in grant funding was administered to aid in the revitalization of Washington hospitality businesses that sustained negative economic impacts due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.