The Whitman County commissioners are using nearly a third of their federal coronavirus relief funds to provide financial help for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The commissioners unanimously approved the move during Monday’s regular meeting.

Commissioner Art Swannack said Whitman County expects to receive at least $2.75 million in federal relief funds, which are administered through the state. There’s also been some recent talk about a potential supplemental award over and above that amount.

The county expects to use about $900,000 itself for various coronavirus expenditures, Swannack said. However, the commissioners also want to use a portion of the funding to help small businesses and nonprofits negatively affected by the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.

The commissioners allocated up to $575,000 to SEWEDA, the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association. The expectation is the organization will award grants of up to $10,000 for affected businesses.

To be eligible for the funding, Swannack said, businesses must be based in Whitman County, have fewer than 50 paid employees and have gross revenues of $3 million or less in 2019.

The money will be awarded in three tiers, he added. The first tier focused on businesses located outside of Pullman. The second tier will be for Pullman businesses, and the third tier will be for firms that previously received coronavirus relief funding through other programs.

The first tier of grant funding should be awarded between Aug. 17 and Sept. 7, he said. Applications should be submitted to SEWEDA.

Another $300,000 will be used to help nonprofit organizations. Those grant awards will be administered directly by the county.

The commissioners are also considering using coronavirus relief funds to help the county library, local chamber organizations and other entities.

In other action, the commissioners scheduled an Aug. 31 hearing to take public comment on extending the county moratorium on new marijuana businesses.

The Whitman County Planning Commission has been working on potential zoning regulations for marijuana operations for much of the past year. However, that work — and the ability to take public comment on it — has been hindered by restrictions on public gatherings stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Consequently, the commissioners are considering extending the moratorium by another six months.

The Aug. 31 hearing is expected to take place via Zoom, which allows public comment to be provided through its online video conferencing service.

Spence may be contacted at or (208) 791-9168.