NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Contact: Kelsey Nyland, Kelsey.Nyland@seattle.gov
New COVID-19 Lease Amendment Toolkit and Legal Support Will Help Small Businesses, Nonprofits Explore Options, Including Renegotiating Leases with Their Landlord
Seattle (May 21, 2020) – The City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED) announced today it has partnered with Communities Rise and Perkins Coie to launch a new toolkit to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic explore options for their commercial leases with a goal of remaining in their spaces. Building on the eviction moratorium for small businesses and nonprofits signed by Mayor Durkan, the new COVID-19 Lease Amendment Toolkit for small businesses and nonprofits provides a suite of tools – including template lease amendment language – to assist small businesses and nonprofits who are navigating the negotiation of their commercial leases with their landlords. The toolkit will also help small businesses and nonprofits understand the full range of policies in place to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small businesses and nonprofits that have 50 or fewer employees are also eligible for a free, 60-minute consultation with a legal professional to assist with any COVID-19 commercial lease-related questions.
“We must help small businesses and nonprofits remain afloat and in their spaces during this unprecedented, difficult time,” said Mayor Durkan. “Along with our work to provide immediate financial relief to small businesses, nonprofits, and their workers, partnerships with community organizations and experts like this one are essential to helping our communities weather this storm. I want to thank Communities Rise and Perkins Coie for their partnership and expertise. Ultimately, we must rely on the federal government to provide the kind of lasting and immense financial relief that our residents, small businesses, and nonprofits truly need.”
“Responding to the economic fallout of this pandemic requires collaboration and partnership of government and community,” said Bobby Lee, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “Our partnership with Communities Rise and Perkins Coie will help commercial tenants as they navigate their options to remain in the spaces that house their businesses and nonprofits.”
The information and resources provided in the toolkit will also help businesses and nonprofits assess the appropriate options available to them as it relates to their particular lease circumstances. For example, should a business receive a late rent notice during the moratorium, the toolkit provides sample legal documents and letters to landlords to communicate concerns and negotiate a rent payment plan. Businesses can also make an appointment with the legal clinic to get one-on-one consultation with an attorney to get advice on how to work with their landlord in their situation.
“Small businesses in Seattle are experiencing devastating losses due to the COVID-19 shutdown, which is affecting their ability to pay rent on their commercial leases. We are grateful for the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development and Perkins Coie for investing in The Lease Amendment Toolkit for small businesses,” said Communities Rise Executive Director, Jodi Nishioka. “Small businesses are experiencing a range of legal issues. The new COVID -19 Legal Clinic is helping us respond to the high volume of requests for legal support from small businesses.”
“Perkins Coie is dedicated to its home city and the small businesses and nonprofits who drive Seattle’s economic vitality and help those most in need,” said Nathan Fahrer, a partner with Perkins Coie’s Real Estate & Land Use practice. “We fully support this important initiative by Mayor Durkan, the Office of Economic Development, and Communities Rise and will do all we can to help Seattle’s small businesses and nonprofits to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.”
“What WE and many of our peers are facing in the small business community is the inability to pay rent during the shutdown and the foreseeable future when we are able to reopen. We understand our landlords have mortgage and loan payments that they are responsible for, however, many of us are running operations with slim margins, and very few small businesses have more than a month or two of cash as a buffer to cover our rent payments. I am optimistic that the COVID-19 Lease Amendment Toolkit can be useful in helping business owners better navigate our leases with our landlords to find creative solutions and preserve long-term partnerships,” said Jeff Ramsey, owner of Café Racer.
“My Communities Rise Covid-19 Legal Clinic attorney helped me to understand my legal options regarding renewing my lease and empowered me to ask for a reduction in rent. I was able to negotiate a 30 PERCENT reduction in my rent going forward. Had I not met with my attorney, I wouldn’t have known that I could do that!” said a Covid-19 Legal Clinic client in Seattle.
Since 2018, OED and Communities Rise (formerly Wayfind/Nonprofit Assistance Center) have partnered on several efforts to support small businesses, including a commercial lease workshop series. Due to rapid redevelopment in the Little Saigon neighborhood, the workshop series provided businesses with the education and resources needed to make informed decisions.
The City of Seattle and OED have continued and expanded their supports for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Durkan, the City of Seattle, and OED have worked to implement a series of additional actions that support artists, nonprofits, small businesses, and workers, including:
- Deferring utility payments for customers impacted by COVID-19;
- Implementing a temporary moratorium on residential, small business, and nonprofit evictions to provide relief for working people financially impacted by COVID-19;
- Creating temporary restaurant loading zones to facilitate curbside pickup at restaurants and retail establishments;
- Launching the #SupportPugetSoundSmallBiz map, which helps residents find small businesses providing takeout or delivery in their neighborhood;
- Announcing a small business relief package that included deferred business taxes and an expanded Small Business Stabilization Fund that provides $10,000 to small businesses financially impacted by COVID-19;
- Providing technical and in-language assistance to small businesses to understand available financial resources, including loans and grants, and to complete application processes for aid;
- Hosting weekly webinars to share updates and new developments, hear impacts COVID-19 is having on the business and independent worker community, and answer questions;
- Creating a new Arts Recovery Package to provide immediate financial relief to artists and cultural organizations that have been impacted by COVID-19;
- Providing 6,250 Seattle families and 1,800 workers with $800 in grocery vouchers;
- Providing rent relief to tenants of City-owned facilities;
- Opening emergency child care classrooms to help hundreds of kids of essential workers; and
- Partnering with United Way of King County and King County to invest $5 million in rental assistance to help families stay in their homes.
OED has also created a comprehensive resource page for small businesses, nonprofits, and workers impacted by COVID-19. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.