Short window opens to apply for CARES Act grant funding; North Whidbey businesses can apply through Tuesday

— Created June 17, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

The City of Oak Harbor has joined forces with Island County to create a local small business grant program using funds received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), but the application window is short.

North Whidbey businesses located within the 98277 zip code can apply for small business relief grants of up to $10,000 to cover expenses incurred due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A total of more than $677,000 is available but applications, which opened Tuesday on the City of Oak Harbor’s website, must be submitted online by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 23. (

To be eligible for these reimbursement grants, businesses must be located in the 98277 zip code; must have 50 or fewer employees; must have been established one year prior to March 1, 2020; and must have sustained a negative impact to the business due to COVID-19.

The City is using a detailed online application process through Survey Monkey.

“It should be straightforward for business owners,” said Sabrina Combs, public information officer for the City of Oak Harbor. “After filling it out, where business owners are basically telling their story, it will go through a review process.”

Business owners will be notified if they have been approved for a grant. At that point, they must plan to submit receipts for the expenses for which they want to be reimbursed.

“I’m likening it to the college application process,” Combs said. “If you’re approved, you don’t have to accept the grant.

“This is a reimbursement program,” she continued. “We will need proof of purchases, documents, receipts. This is not a payment-up-front grant and the reason for that is we have to meet requirements for how we disburse federal money. That money has requirements in the way it’s spent; we have to be very careful how we receive applications, how we process them and how we keep records.” 

Those business owners who decide to proceed with the reimbursement grant process will be able to submit receipts between July 25 through Sept. 30; the city will start mailing reimbursement checks Sept. 30. Business owners who submitted applications but were not initially approved will be placed on a waiting list and will be notified in late July if they will be approved for a grant.

The City of Oak Harbor is putting $344,550 of its CARES Act funding into the North Whidbey Island Small Business Relief Grant program, Island County is contributing $333,333, for a total of $677,883. The grant is funded by the Department of Commerce. The City of Oak Harbor and Island County must adhere to Department of Commerce regulations and requirements for grant reimbursement requests.

The online application and more details on the program are available or at (follow the COVID-19 link at the top of the page). The website includes a guide for the grant. Businesses with questions about the program may call 360-279-4555 or email