Standing at a lectern hung with a freaky black sign bearing the name of the state's COVID-19 website, Gov. Jay Inslee announced an admittedly small program to help brighten the bleak economic picture unfolding in Washington.
The state is now offering $10,000 grants to help pay fixed costs for small businesses with up to 10 employees. The grants will be administered by local chambers of commerce and other economic development entities. Commerce Director Lisa Brown said the money "should be able to turn around quickly," and with an eye toward "geographic diversity." Brown added that there will "not be enough" for all who want the grants, and encouraged interested owners to apply for the Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant Program now.
Inslee stressed these are "short term steps with many larger and more aggressive steps to follow."
Inslee also said he has already dispersed $120 million of the $200 million the Legislature appropriated for COVID-19 relief efforts across the state last session, with $20 million going to food programs, $5 million going to tribes, and $30 million going to the Department of Health "to cover state and local costs associated with the outbreak."
The Governor said he will "probably" call a special session of the Legislature to "do some more aggressive things" on funding "given the extent of the damage we have suffered." So far the governor has cut $445 million from the budget in anticipation of large revenue shortfalls resulting from a frozen economy.
In order for the state to really get back to business, Inslee acknowledged, the federal government needs to dramatically increase testing but also capacity for testing analysis. "We're doing everything we can to improve that capacity, but we'll need federal help," he said.