Washington state and Senate Democrats unveil COVID-19 relief bill

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Ted S. Warren
Members of the Washington National Guard stand near a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — House and Senate Democrats on Friday released a plan that looks to spend $2.2 billion in federal aid money on COVID-19 relief efforts in Washington state.

The Seattle Times reported the plan includes $618 million to boost vaccination efforts and contact tracing. It also includes $668 million for school assistance, $365 million to aid renters and landlords and $240 million for grants to businesses.

The bill also looks to spend $50 million for emergency child-care funding and $65 million for the Immigrant Relief Fund.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said in a written statement that by working with Senate lawmakers and figuring out how best to use the federal aid, “we have developed a great first step that pushes dollars out the door to communities and businesses in need,” Sullivan said.

The new legislation crafted between state House and Senate Democrats is one a series of bills being fast-tracked in the Legislature to provide different types of relief.

A measure that would exempt businesses from paying taxes on COVID-19 aid they received by the government, such as the Paycheck Protection Program or grant money distributed by Gov. Jay Inslee, was unanimously passed by the House Friday.

Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Drew Stokesbary released his own version of a pandemic relief bill that would dwarf the Democratic proposal by spending about the same amount of federal funds along with $2.1 billion from the state’s budget reserves.

The measure would spend $1.5 billion on various relief items, like rental assistance and the “Working Families Tax Rebate” — a tax refund approved in 2008 by the Legislature but never actually funded. It would also spend another $1.5 billion on students and schools, and $834 million on relief for small businesses.

“I think that has been a tough time for a lot of people,” he said.