Calls for governor to reconsider some business restrictions; financial assistance to affected businesses urged.

Advocates for the hospitality industry are taking the lead calling on Gov. Inslee to reconsider his four-week ban on indoor dining. Q13 Fox reports on a press conference held yesterday. 

Restaurants, alone, are expected to lose $800 million during this difficult four-week stretch, according to the President and CEO Anthony Anton of the Washington Hospitality Association during a news conference on Monday.

He was joined by four state legislators who are advocating for financial support to industries that are hurting this next legislative session.

“We’re going to have people’s holidays ruined, their dreams ruined and they’re going to lose their jobs and because they’ve already used up their unemployment, they’re going to have a real problem accessing benefits,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D) WA District 33.

“I think on day one of the 2021 session, one of the highest priorities I know for our budget team, because we’re already working on it, is what can we do at the state level to provide some modicum of financial support for industry sectors and especially the hospitality industry,” said Rep. Larry Springer (D) WA District 45.

The hospitality association yesterday reported that all four legislative caucuses support financial aid to the industry. The governor has increased the financial support originally announced.  

Gov. Jay Inslee today announced additional financial support funds for families and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor was joined by Lisa Brown, Department of Commerce director, for the announcement. 

“We know this pandemic is taking an economic toll,” Inslee said during a press conference Friday. “On Sunday we announced $50 million in business supports, but after more discussions with legislators and our agencies, we’ve agreed on how to more than double that.”

In addition to funds announced on Sunday, the total new economic supports amount to $135 million. Included in that total is:

  • $70 million in business support grants. 
  • $30 million for the recovery loan program.
  • $20 million for rental assistance.
  • $15 million for energy bills for low-income households. 

The numbers still are inadequate to offset much of the loss businesses are enduring. The WHA was one of ten business groups who wrote the governor last week, asking him to reconsider his order.

Our organizations represent the 250,000 businesses in the state that collectively employ millions of hardworking Washingtonians in every neighborhood across the great state of Washington. We write to you today, urging you to reconsider the recent restrictions added in response to COVID-19.

The ten organizations: Association of Washington Business, Washington Retail Association, Washington Food Industry Association, Washington Trucking Association, Building Industry Association of Washington, Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Bankers Association, Washington Forest Protection Association, Washington Realtors. 

The Associated Press reports key Democrats in both houses of the Legislature support modifying the restrictions. 

Today, The Columbian editorial board called for a special legislative session to provide emergency financial relief for businesses most directly affected by the restrictions.

The latest restrictions limit restaurants and bars, allowing only to-go orders or outdoor seating. Gyms, theaters, bowling alleys, museums, zoos and aquariums must close, while retail outlets — including grocery stores — must restrict patrons to 25 percent of capacity.

With a spike in coronavirus infections, such orders may be necessary. But they fail to address the economic pressure that will be placed on business owners and employees.

The editorial says,

That is why the Legislature must be called into session. Emergency relief is required, and input from lawmakers is needed.

The editorial concludes,

If Inslee does call a special session of the Legislature, it will be crucial for lawmakers to remain focused on the financial aspect of the pandemic. Now is not the time to critique shutdown orders or question whether Washington residents should wear masks.

Instead, it is the time to help those residents weather the economic storm that has accompanied those orders.

One way or another, now or in January, with federal assistance or not, lawmakers appear poised to help these businesses “weather the economic storm.”