Governor extends COVID restrictions, announces new economic support; mandated closures here rank 3rd in nation.

Gov. Inslee has extended his previously ordered limitations on business and social activity through January 4. He also announced new economic supports. From his Medium page announcement,

Gov. Jay Inslee today announced additional economic supports for workers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inslee also announced a three-week extension of the state’s current restrictions which will now be in place until January 4, 2021…

Inslee was joined by Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown who announced an additional $50 million, doubling the number of Washington small businesses that will receive aid. Industries recently shut down, such as restaurants and fitness centers, as well as businesses that have been devastatingly impacted throughout the pandemic, like music and event venues, have been prioritized.

The governor also acknowledged the importance of additional support for unemployed workers.

In addition, Inslee also announced the state’s readiness to step in in the case of congressional failure to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funding in the CARES Act by the end of the year. Washington will be able to fill some of the funding gap for residents that aren’t eligible for regular UI, such as self-employed workers, freelancers and independent contractors.

The Seattle Times reported on the announcement.

In addition to shutting down indoor service at restaurants and bars, Inslee’s order limits outdoor seating to parties of five or fewer. Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and museums must remain closed.

Indoor gatherings with people outside of a person’s household are prohibited unless participants have quarantined for at least a week and tested negative for the virus.

By one measure, the state has been aggressive in imposing restrictions to control the virus. The Washington Research Council reports,

Yesterday the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the results of a survey that asked businesses how they have changed their operations due to the pandemic. The results are available by industry, establishment size, and state. I’ve pulled some interesting points in the table below.

Notably, Washington ranks third among the states in the percentage of establishments that experienced a government-mandated closure. Washington ranks 35th among the states in the percentage of establishments that received a coronavirus-related loan or grant tied to rehiring or maintaining payroll.

As the BLS reports, the range of mandated closures is wide.

Six states and Puerto Rico had a percentage of establishments that experienced a government-mandated closure that was substantially higher than the national rate of 19 percent: Puerto Rico (50 percent), Michigan (32 percent), Pennsylvania (30 percent), Washington (27 percent), Vermont (26 percent), Hawaii (26 percent), and New York (26 percent). Six states had a percentage of establishments that experienced a government-mandated closure of 10 percent or less: South Dakota (6 percent), Arkansas (8 percent), North Dakota (9 percent), Utah (9 percent), Wyoming (9 percent), and Nebraska (10 percent).

Republicans in the Legislature released a statement critical of the extension. The ST also reports concerns raised by some business leaders.

“This extended shutdown will decimate the hospitality industry, with no evidence to support that shutting our industry down works to control the spread of the virus,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, in a statement Tuesday.

And,

Downtown Seattle Association president and CEO Jon Scholes said more than 150 small businesses have closed permanently in downtown Seattle alone, with more than half in the restaurant industry.

While state aid is welcome, Scholes said the scale of the crisis “warrants greater state relief” and federal action.
Meanwhile, we await word on the status of Congressional pandemic relief negotiations.