by Agueda Pacheco Flores
Alicia Haskins is no doubt applying for a grant from the City’s Small Business Stabilization Fund program.
After visiting small businesses around Rainier Beach, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the program at a press conference at Rainier Health and Fitness, where she said the fund would focus on businesses owned by women and People of Color “because of the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.”
The nonprofit has provided low-cost gym services such as personal training and group classes since its founding in 2005. Fitness centers such as gyms have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and its resulting restrictions.
Haskins, Rainier Health’s executive director, says Rainier Health has seen low membership rates, with many canceling their memberships and, at the same time, not enough people joining.
Rainier Health has persisted, adding online classes and shifting group class sizes to be smaller.
“It’s been tough for everyone,” she says, adding that it’s been important for Rainier Health to help the community maintain a healthy body to fight any kind of chronic disease. Still, it’s a balancing act.
“For us, it’s trying to be creative and play our part in getting our community active, but as a business, people not wanting to be in large crowds or be in public spaces means lower usage rate.”
The fund, which has been offered by the City five times before, will give small businesses grants that range between $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000. Businesses that are eligible must apply by midnight on Nov. 9. A total of $4 million in grants will be awarded.
The applications will also be available in seven additional languages including Somali, Spanish, Thai, and Korean. The Office of Economic Development will also offer multilingual virtual seminars to help small business owners apply for the fund.
Haskins says a grant from the City would go a long way for Rainier Health, allowing them to invest in their staff and facility so that “it’s better suited for the times we are in.”
“Our top priority is our staff; making sure we have people on deck to serve the community in this capacity — full-time staff and group class instructors and personal trainers and coaches,” Haskins says. “We are trying to build an outdoor gym and a bigger platform where people can exercise with the best ventilation.”
And while the grant will give businesses like Rainier Health much-needed help, Haskins says the community has been pivotal to their survival throughout the pandemic.
“Alongside the cancellations and the people that decide to be distant … on the flip side there’s been a lot of community support on a larger scale with PPP loans and COVID relief and individual support that has really shined through despite the challenges,” she says.
Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist focusing on Latinx culture and Mexican American identity. Originally from Querétaro, Mexico, Pacheco Flores is inspired by her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washingtonian.
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