April 1, 2020

Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications
Washington State Department of Commerce
(206) 256-6106

Washington State Dept. of Commerce Grant Helps Hotels Provide Rooms for COVID-19 Responders and Vulnerable Populations

Hotel owners across Washington may have an opportunity to help their communities and fill empty rooms, thanks to a $30-million state emergency housing grant from the state Department of Commerce.

The funds are available to local governments and non-profit organizations in communities – not directly to the private businesses. Communities will work with hotel owners to provide necessary rooms and services for alternative care sites during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an opportunity to assist hotels struggling with lower demand and help people who need an alternative housing option during this emergency,” said Lisa Brown, Commerce Director. “Businesses can be some of the true heroes in this crisis, strengthening communities by providing housing for first responders, medical personnel and others needing a place to stay during the pandemic.”

The funding will help counties meet expected sheltering needs necessitated by statewide social distancing orders. Existing shelters were already operating at capacity before the emergency rules took effect.

“We knew that to keep people safely separated, we were going to run into a situation where there just wasn’t enough capacity in the system,” said Kathy Kinard, grant program manager. “This grant will open up more shelter opportunities across the state immediately.”

Benton County Human Services Manager Kyle Sullivan accessed some of the grant money to reserve 21 hotel beds from A-1 Hospitality Group for those in need of an emergency shelter.  He is also partnering with a local taxi service to help people get to the facility even if they need wheelchair service.

“This is the kind of partnership and creativity that we need – this truly makes a difference in this time of crisis,” Brown said.

Hotel owners interested in partnering with counties to house people during the crisis can use this contact list to call county staff immediately. 

COVID-19 Emergency Housing Grants to Counties Information

Funding from this grant is to address the COVID19 outbreak-related public health needs of people experiencing homelessness or otherwise in need of quarantine or isolation.

Local communities and potential partners looking for more information on COVID-19 Emergency Housing Grants please contact Kathy Kinard, or visit

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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