Oak Harbor approves CARES grants

A range of small businesses on North Whidbey — from restaurants to salons to yoga studios — will receive CARES Act funding to recover losses caused by COVID-19.

During a meeting last week, Oak Harbor City Council members approved a resolution to award the federal relief grants to 63 businesses and six nonprofits that have been recommended by the CARES selection committee. The committee was set up to help distribute federal CARES Act funds received by the city and the county as part of the North Whidbey Island Small Business Relief Grant Program.

The committee is reviewing the remaining 14 businesses and will make recommendations to the council later this month or in early August, according to City Administrator Blaine Oborn.

Councilmember Jim Woessner was grateful for the staff’s quick turnaround time.

“As we all know, it’s been very important to get this off the ground quickly and certainly staff took the ball and ran with it.” he said. “We ran into some challenges early on, but in the end we’re going to be out there; we’re going to get this money into the hands of our local businesses that dearly need it.”

In total, $588,453 of the $677,883 CARES funds have been approved so far. The majority of the businesses have been approved for the maximum $10,000 amount.

The nonprofits that were approved include the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County, Whidbey Golf Club, Oak Harbor Yacht Club, Garry Oak Gallery and the PBY Memorial Foundation.

Nonprofits were not advertised as being eligible for the relief funds.

The selection committee was appointed by Mayor Bob Severns and Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, although the city changed some of the members without telling the commissioner.

The members are Bill Larsen, Eric Marshall, Maria McGee, Wendy Shingleton and Ronnie Wright.

“They vetted all of those applications very well,” said Councilmember Erica Wasinger, who acted as a liaison between the council and the committee.

Councilmember Joel Servatius abstained from voting due to his position as president of the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Business owners will have to sign and submit the professional services agreements by July 24, before they can receive the funding that will be available between July 25 and Sept. 30.