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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee signs $2.2B relief package to support schools, businesses, renters and immigrants

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Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed a $2.2B COVID relief measure into law.

A fresh round of federal aid will soon be flowing to Washington businesses and individuals hit hard by the COVID pandemic.

On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a $2.2 billion relief package funded with money approved by Congress in December.

The package includes:

  • $716M for schools to help return to in-person learning and address student learning loss
  • $618M for public health, including vaccine administration
  • $365M for rental assistance
  • $290M for small business and childcare provider grants
  • $70M to replenish the state’s immigrant workers relief fund
  • $26M for food assistance

According to the Office of Financial Management, the business and rental assistance will be available beginning in mid-March.
Also Friday, Inslee signed into law a measure to exempt federal emergency assistance grants from the state’s business and occupation tax. That’s expected to save Washington businesses more than $200 million, according to the state Senate.

A third bill signed into law by Inslee on Friday will free up an additional $400 million for the state’s federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. This is accomplished by shifting the cost of COVID-related Medicaid rate enhancements and incentives away from the relief fund and instead paying for those enhancements and incentives with other sources of state and federal money.

The new $2.2 billion relief package follows the federal CARES Act which sent approximately $3 billion to the state of Washington last year. About $1 billion of that went to local governments while Inslee decided how to spend the other roughly $2 billion. This time around, state lawmakers – not Inslee --decided how to spend the funds because the Legislature was back in session.