A week after Governor Jay Inslee imposed new social and commercial restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, at a press conference on Friday he announced a plan to direct $135 million in federal funds to businesses, landlords, and utility companies.
The money breakdown goes as follows:
• $70 million for grants to businesses, with $50 million reserved for sectors "hardest hit" by state closures, such as music venues, restaurants, and fitness centers. The rest of the grant money will go to businesses that already applied for the Working Washington Small Business Grant program, which offers $10,000 to businesses with up to 10 employees. Commerce director Lisa Brown said the state will make the funding available "very soon," possibly "in a week." The Governor called the relief funds “significant,” but he acknowledged they won't "help every business in the state of Washington." The restaurant lobby claims they'd need $1.2 billion to cover their costs for a month, and worker advocates continue to push for the state to pay people to stay home.
• The state will dump $30 million into a "recovery loan program," which Brown described as a way to treat "immediate and long-term" financial issues businesses face. Brown said she plans to leverage the money to increase the pot up to $100 million by the "end of the winter."
• Inslee will also direct $20 million toward rental assistance programs and $15 million to pay peoples' utility bills, fixed costs that rack up for residential and commercial tenants.
In more good news for businesses, Inslee signaled his support for a plan to limit the expected increase in unemployment insurance taxes businesses should pay to replenish the state's unemployment trust fund, which he said will "achieve hundreds of millions of dollars in savings" for businesses starting next year.
The Governor said the state still has $150 million in CARES Act money left to spend before the end of the year. No news yet on where he plans to direct the remaining funds, but he touted the "importance" of "hospital capacity" and "nutrition," which makes me feel like he's keeping some under the mattress in case everyone ignores all this free Thanksgiving advice public health officials have been dishing out and we have to start throwing down for field hospitals and old milk for the food banks.