Dear friends and neighbors,
We know that the pandemic and the economy are inextricably linked. While Washington has focused on saving lives by emphasizing public health, it has come at an economic cost to families and businesses across our state. At the end of last week, the House Democrats announced the first step in the House and Senate plan for Washington’s community and economic recovery. The proposal includes $2.2 billion in federal funds to provide assistance to families and businesses across our state who have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These relief funds will be directed into critical areas to help families and businesses through small business grants, health care and public health, housing and food assistance, and K-12 schools and child care. With these funds, businesses can recover lost revenue, families can get caught up on their rent and keep food on the table, and vaccines will get to local communities.
Investing in Washington Small Businesses
Businesses across the state have stepped up to help us manage this health crisis and now we need to support them with this step towards economic recovery. This plan allocates $240 million to continue the small business grants that began in 2020.
Boosting Public Health to Vaccinate Washington
Families and businesses need to get back to a sense of normal. That can’t happen if we can’t counter COVID-19 in our communities. Democrats are moving $618 million for vaccine distribution, contact tracing and testing, and epidemiology funding so that the governor’s plan to vaccinate 45,000 people a day has the necessary funding in the short-term, and provide other COVID response efforts.
Keeping People Housed and Fed
The Governor’s eviction moratorium has been a necessary stopgap to keep people in their homes, but we need to address the backlog in unpaid rent. This plan puts $362 million into rental assistance, foreclosure assistance, and for small landlords to stay on top of their mortgages. Another $49 million is allocated to food and emergency cash programs, helping to keep people fed and warm. Finally, the proposal also requires food banks to serve anyone who needs help.
Getting Our Students Caught Up
As a mom of two kids, I can attest to the well-known fact that kids are struggling with remote learning. It’s hard on them, their parents, and their teachers. When school is in-person again, we need every district to have the resources they need to get students caught up. This plan invests $668 million in our schools to address learning loss, keep teachers on the payroll, and get us ready to bring kids back to the classroom when it is safe to do so. Child care providers, who have been providing critically needed care for children throughout the pandemic, are also receiving $50 million in grants to ensure they remain open and operating. They play a critical role in our economic recovery.
Meeting the Needs of all Washingtonians
Some in our communities are left out of the programs I’ve described above, and that’s why we are allocating $6 million for health care for underinsured and uninsured individuals, $65 million for immigrant assistance, and $5 million for college student assistance. We are also allocating $66 million for long-term care and developmental disabilities programs, which are taking care of our vulnerable loved ones.
This is just the first step in the long road toward economic recovery. In the coming months, we’ll see more bills, a supplemental budget, and an operating budget that continue to invest in public health, equitably address needs across the state in struggling communities, and help families and small businesses get through this next phase of the pandemic.
The bills are anticipated to be heard this week in the House Appropriations Committee on which I serve. I’ll keep you updated as we work to approve this proposal and get the much-needed relief funding out into our communities.
As always, whether in person or online, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me this session with your questions, concerns, or comments. We will get through these hardest of times together.
Rep. Tana Senn