SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the Legislature may need to be called back for a special session because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Legislature isn’t schedule to return until next January, but Inslee said it was probable they may need to return, “given the extent of the economic damage that we have suffered.” He said the timing of that is uncertain, but he said that he was ready to call the Legislature back early if more aggressive steps for spending was needed before the end of the year. He noted that the state had already dispersed $120 million from $200 million the Legislature allocated to COVID-19 response before they adjourned last month.
NEARLY 400 DEATHS: Health authorities in Washington on Tuesday announced more than 20 new coronavirus deaths in the state, bringing the total to at least 394.
According to figures from the Department of Health, there are more than 8,600 confirmed cases in Washington. The bulk of the cases and deaths are in King and Snohomish counties.
For most people, COVID-19 displays mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can be more severe, causing pneumonia or death.
SMALL BUSINESS EMERGENCY GRANTS: Inslee announced the state is opening up an application process for grants that will provide up to $10,000 for businesses with up to 10 employees. Businesses can use the money to pay rent, utility bills, supplies and other operating expenses. The $5 million in funding for the grants comes from the governor’s strategic reserve fund and will be administered by the state Department of Commerce. Businesses can apply at coronavirus.wa.gov.
BUSINESS RESILIENCY PROGRAM: The Department of Commerce is providing a business resiliency assistance program that is partnering with various organizations to ensure that businesses have access to help that is available. Help is also available for small businesses who might be eligible for forgivable small loans through the Small Business Administration.
FOOD BANKS STRUGGLE: Inslee also on Tuesday announced an effort to resupply Washington’s food banks, which are running low due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Inslee says because of increasing demand supplies at the state’s food banks have dropped to dangerously low levels, with an estimated 1.6 million people — double the usual number — in expected to seek food aid.
The relief effort called WA Food Fund, is being managed by Philanthropy Northwest, a network of philanthropic organizations. The effort will combine business and philanthropic dollars with individual fundraising to have the most effect.
NUCLEAR RESERVATION: The majority of the 11,000 employees at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the largest single employer in eastern Washington, are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Energy said about 10% to 15% of Hanford’s workforce is working on the sprawling site that contains the nation’s largest quantity of radioactive waste left over from the production of nuclear weapons. Another 60% are working from home or otherwise telecommuting at the site near Richland in southeastern Washington state, the agency said. The rest are off work, but continue to be paid, the agency said. The site went to this “essential mission-critical operations posture” in late March and it continues this week, the agency said.
Hanford was established during the Manhattan Project in World War II. The site made the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.