JRO supports the Thurston County, WA regional response to COVID-19 for impacted employers and workers. In coordination with local partners, JRO has established a countywide Task Force, launched a resource website and established communication and decision-making protocols. Thurston Strong now serves as the central clearinghouse for response and recovery efforts for over 350,000 people.
Over the ensuing months, the Task Force operated a business emergency hotline, created and managed a 15,000-user website (thurstonstrong.org) and provided direct assistance to over 3,000 businesses, nonprofits and other partners. Initial support included coordination with governing bodies, dissemination of easy-to-access information and links to dislocated worker resources, and how-to guides for completing federal grant and loan applications, resulting in over $100 M in Payroll Protection Program forgivable loans for Thurston small and micro businesses.
Subsequently, the Task Force coordinated with local jurisdictions to develop data-driven resource delivery strategies, targeting the most impacted and at-risk workers and entities. With help from pass-through federal CARES Act funding, we distributed over $13M in grants ranging from $1,500 to $30,000. Recipients included minority-owned businesses, restaurants, retailers, nonprofits, farms, co-ops, and value-add food manufacturers. (Special shout out to Mad Bird Design for premier tech support).
The Task Force also invested in childcare. By summer 2020, the pandemic had shuttered 40% of Washington daycare operators while schools closed for in-person learning. The Task Force understood the need to help local providers bridge this crisis and remain in-place to serve front-line workers as they returned to the field. To date, the Task Force has issued over $3M in grants to local providers to help cover growing operational expenses and reduce barriers to access for low-income families, in addition to putting a small dent to the disproportionate impact felt by women and minority workers.
The Task Force also created a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) operation, delivering tens of thousands of masks and thousands of gallons of locally-sourced hand sanitizer to over 1,250 seekers. In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, the Task Force provides specific business reopening instructions by sector and promotes the availability of goods and services as they come back on line.
Over the second year of pandemic-related impacts, JRO has worked with the Task Force to plan for and distribute an additional $13 Million in relief and develop a shared regional Response and Recovery 24-Month Action Plan. The plan outlines specific actions for distributing federal, state and local recovery funding to impacted businesses and workers, enhancing economic resiliency, expanding workforce training capacity and resetting economic opportunities with an emphasis on equity and inclusion.