Washington State COVID-19 Relief Bill

Staff Writer, Hillary Thompson

Over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has vastly affected public health and has caused unemployment rates to rise. Companies have created certain vaccines, which have been  in distribution throughout the country. To help the people in Washington who have been affected by the disease, the Washington State Senate has approved a COVID-19 relief bill. 

According to KOMO news, “The Washington State Legislature approved a bipartisan $2.2 billion COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday to expand testing and vaccine distribution, provide support for schools and small businesses, and help with housing and food assistance.” Because  the bill has an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately upon Gov. Inslee’s signature. The bill has several elements, looking to provide support for many of the industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to King 5 news, “Under the bill, $668 million will be allocated to schools as they move toward welcoming students back to the classroom. An additional $618 million will go toward vaccine administration, contact tracing and testing, and $365 million will go toward rental assistance to help renters and landlords affected by the pandemic.” 

In addition, “$240 million [will go to] at least 12,000 small business assistance grants, $70 million to assist undocumented immigrants who have been affected by the pandemic and do not qualify for federal or state assistance, $50 million in grants to help keep childcare business open and expand their capacity, [and] $26 million for food assistance to individuals and households in need.”

Sen. Christine Rolfes talked about how Washington state is ready to beat the virus and get rid of COVID-19. She called the bill an “early action” bill, and it’s only a series of COVID-19 relief packages she expected state lawmakers to pass this year. Rolfes had sponsored the senate bill that will allow thousands of establishments that were impacted by the closures to be able to avoid paying liquor licensing fees. This measure is awaiting action in the House.

Sen. Doug Erickensen disagreed with Rolfes’ statement. “Today is not early action,” Ericksen said on the Senate floor. “Today is watching the house burn down and standing outside with some MREs [meals ready to eat], emergency baskets to pass out to people as they escape that apartment building that just burned down. The governor should have had lawmakers return to Olympia for a special session last spring or summer to provide relief sooner.” 

Sen. Doug Ericksen had also sponsored Senate Bill 5169. “This bill would improve the provision of personal protection equipment in medical settings,” KHQ 1 news reported. “The Bill passed the Senate on Wednesday and now it is heading to the House of Representatives’ consideration.” 

The Legislature also approved House Bill 1095, which will exempt businesses from paying B&O taxes on emergency assistance grants from the state or federal government. The measure is expected to provide up to $210 million in tax relief for Washington businesses impacted by the pandemic.

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