(The Center Square) – The Pierce County Council is considering a grant program designed to provide small businesses in the region’s small towns and unincorporated areas funds to make security improvements.
The proposed Small Business Safety and Security Grant Program would provide selected applicants a reimbursement of up to $10,000 or $20,000 pending the Pierce County Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee’s approval of an amendment that increases the population threshold from populations less than 8,000 to 15,000.
Grants are intended for one-time expenditures by the small businesses for security enhancements. This includes improved lighting, alarms, cameras and secure entrance doors.
According to the proposed ordinance, there were over 800 non-residential burglaries, 130 commercial robberies, 123 shoplifting incidents and more than 600 fraud and forgery incidents in unincorporated Pierce County in 2022. In comparison to the five years prior, non-residential burglary is up 21%, armed robbery is up 33% and motor vehicle theft is up 96% in unincorporated Pierce County.
The committee saw too many issues with a proposed amendment to the ordinance that would have increased the maximum grant amount per applicant to $20,000 and increased the population threshold for small cities and towns to 15,000.
Pierce County Councilmember Robyn Denson was unsure about increasing the grant amount to $20,000, noting that there are a lot of businesses that could potentially qualify and that the increase limits the county’s ability to serve as many businesses as it can.
Fellow Councilmember Marty Campbell had issues with the amendment as well due to the lack of concise estimates for how much federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars would be needed for the amended grant program. Campbell also felt the increased population threshold excluded small businesses located in three to four cities in all of Pierce County from the program.
Ultimately, the proposed amendment was withdrawn during Tuesday’s committee meeting.
In Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier’s proposed 2024-25 biennial budget, the COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Fund would dedicate $3 million for a Small Business Safety and Security Grant Program, if approved by the council.
The ordinance was moved to the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee meeting on Nov. 14 for further discussion.