Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference Nov. 15 at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference Nov. 15 at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Inslee announces $135 million pandemic relief plan

The state will use CARES Act dollars to help businesses and people impacted by latest restrictions.

OLYMPIA — On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state has more than doubled its economic aid for people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

The $135 million recovery package uses leftover CARES Act money to help businesses pay for expenses like payroll and works with people to cover their rent and utilities. The aid is in response to a slate of restrictions Inslee enacted Wednesday which temporarily prohibits indoor dining at restaurants, and closes gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters and indoor activities at museums, aquariums and zoos.

During a Friday news conference, he again called on Washingtonians to hunker down, and avoid social gatherings of all kinds, including Thanksgiving dinners, as COVID-19 infections rise quickly across Washington, including in Snohomish County.

“We have to understand that the house is on fire right now,” Inslee said. “The virus is raging, when you are facing that kind of fire, you have to take some actions.”

Locally, case counts are shattering previous highs, while hospitalizations and deaths are also on the rise.

This week, Snohomish County surpassed 250 deaths due to COVID. That’s nearly 25 times the number of deaths from the flu in 2019.

As of Friday, 53 COVID patients were in county hospitals, according to the Snohomish Health District. And cases are rising in long-term care homes.

The governor warned that if the situation doesn’t improve, he could extend the current restrictions — which are set to expire on Dec. 14.

“We’re going to have a giant spike in December if we all enjoy a turkey dinner the way we historically do,” Inslee said. “That’s just too dangerous this year.”

But there’s reason for hope, Inslee said.

Multiple pharmaceutical companies have reported promising results for vaccine trials, although it will take months for one to be widely available.

“The goal line is in sight, and we ought to get there with as many team members as we can,” Inslee said.

The recovery package includes $70 million in grants for restaurants, gyms and other businesses impacted by the pandemic, in addition to another $30 million in loans. It also contains $20 million for rent assistance to tenants and landlords. The remaining $15 million will help with utility payments for low-income Washingtonians.

The original aid plan, announced Sunday, was for $50 million.

Grants will be focused on businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, including restaurants, gyms and music venues, state commerce director Lisa Brown said during Friday’s news conference.

“We know that the uncertainty and the hardship that has been caused by the pandemic and public health measures have put thousands of business owners and their employees in very challenging times,” she said. “Probably the most challenging times of our lives.”

An application portal for business owners could be ready as early as next week.

In addition to the state’s plan, Inslee called on the White House and Congress to pass a second stimulus bill, so state and local governments can continue providing grants to businesses and increased unemployment benefits, among other programs.

“We are nearing a cliff of support,” he said. “The pandemic is accelerating, the federal assistance is going away, and the more time that is wasted, the more people that are going to suffer lasting impacts.”

The governor first announced the latest restrictions on businesses during a televised news conference early Sunday.

With case counts reaching record highs, and hospitalizations and deaths also increasing, the state needed to act, he said.

But that decision drew the ire of businesses owners, the state’s hospitality association and several Democratic lawmakers.

They say restaurants aren’t the cause for the surge, and shuttering indoor dining will cost upward of 100,000 jobs statewide.

“The best relief for our operators and employees is to let us get back to work,” Washington Hospitality Association President Anthony Anton said in a written statement. “We want to work with the governor to get our operators open again now, even if at reduced capacity, so we can earn enough to keep our workers employed during the holidays and hopefully help the business survive.”

But two people from different households getting lunch together at a restaurant is just as dangerous as them doing it in someone’s home, the governor said.

“No matter how good of a job a restaurateur can do, you can’t eat with a mask on,” he said.

Since June, health experts have said social gatherings where people don’t wear masks are the leading driver of COVID infections, locally and statewide.

Inslee’s latest order also prohibits those gatherings.

In Snohomish County, more than a dozen restaurants have had COVID outbreaks, data shows. But cases haven’t spread from employees to patrons, Dr. Chris Spitters, the county health officer has said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Amethyst Skeels and Alexander Walsh pick out cannabis products at Kushman's Everett Cannabis Dispensary on Evergreen Way on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Cannabis sales surge, proving pot is pandemic-proof

There are more customers, and some regulars are stocking up — just in case there’s a shortage.

Claire Vondemkamp (left) and Jami Sollid check out customers Saturday afternoon at Just James Boutique in Stanwood on November 28, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Crazy or just brave? These folks opened businesses this year

In spite of the pandemic, the number of new businesses is up sharply compared to last year.

The Colors of Hawaii gift store Saturday afternoon in Everett November 21, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
If you can’t go, a new Everett shop sells Hawaiian sunshine

The Colors of Hawaii gift store has relocated to Broadway. Yes, of course, they sell grass skirts.

Sofia Drogomiretskiy sets up an example of what she would photograph for a Decorent Instagram photo on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 in Bothell, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
They rent you a merry Christmas — the tree trimmings, that is

Tired of storing holiday decorations, a Bothell couple launched a company that rents tree ornaments.

Shop local without leaving your home: Merchants go online

It’s more important than ever to support area businesses, and it’s now easier to find them on the web.

Port of Everett, state offer new small business grants

Port tenants and companies affected by COVID-19 health restrictions are encouraged to apply.

A Boeing 737-8AS aircraft, operated by Ryanair, taxis passed an EasyJet passenger jet at Schoenefeld airport in Berlin on March 13, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Krisztian Bocsi.
Boeing nears Max deal with Ryanair in win for embattled jet

The order would help repnlenish a backlog that’s been depleted since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.

Anastasia Allison poses with samples of her Kula Cloth, a pee cloth for women to use outdoors, near her home on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 in Arlington, Washington. Allison's invention has caught the eye of outdoor retail giant REI and will being selling them in stores soon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Kula Cloth tries to wipe away the mountains of toilet paper

An Arlington woman’s “spiritual awakening via pee cloth” led to a popular product for outdoorsy women.

A passenger aircraft at Ciudad Real International Airport in Ciudad Real, Spain, on Oct. 27, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Paul Hanna.
Airlines face ‘mission of the century’ in shipping vaccines

Cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bikes and even donkeys may be needed to get the drug to rural areas.

Most Read