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Governor announces relief measures for small business

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March 18, 2020

Gov. Jay Inslee announced today a series of measures to provide relief to Washington state businesses and employees, renters and residents. Of key importance to our Washington Hospitality Association members:

Employee assistance

Inslee announced a waiver of the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment insurance, an order that is retroactive for claims filed up to March 8, 2020. The governor is working with the White House and Congress to declare a disaster in Washington so as to  become eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Once established, the state would have the authority to serve persons otherwise not eligible for assistance through the current unemployment insurance program.

Business assistance

Up to $5 million of the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Funds will be made available as small grants to small businesses across the state to help prevent closure because of coronavirus. The application process will be coordinated by the state Department of Commerce.

The federal Small Business Administration has approved the governor’s request for a disaster declaration. The governor said he hopes that all counties in the state will be eligible. This approval may mean that low-interest loans will be available to help small businesses meet their financial obligations and cover operating expenses.

Congress recently approved up to $7 billion in Small Business Administration disaster loans for businesses impacted by coronavirus. Small businesses can learn more here.

Flexibility for tax collections

The governor announced the Washington state’s Department of Revenue will be authorized to waive or suspend penalties and interest on certain late tax payments. The state will create payment plans on  the core amount businesses owe without filing tax liens in federal courts. A suspension of enforcement actions would also be included — these measures will be in force for at least 30 days.

These measures waive late filing fees for property tax exemption renewals, business license renewal late fees, and excise tax interest on B&O, real estate sales, and other taxes the department administers, including interest related to tax preferences for biotechnology and medical device manufacturing.

All of these tax-related measures are retroactive to Feb. 29, 2020.

Utility rate payer assistance

The governor called on public utilities providers to suspend disconnection tariffs for nonpayment during this time, as well as calling on them to waive late fees for customers who are out of work, offering customers payment plans and expanding bill assistance programs.

The governor is also suspending some restrictions on the rate-making authority of the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission, to enable the use of ratepayer dollars to provide economic assistance to customers who are affected by coronavirus. This provides the commission authority to approve expanding the use of energy bill assistance funds to customers who are out of work or working significantly reduced hours.

Cash assistance to families
Under the governor’s direction, the state Department of Social and Health Services will expand eligibility for the Family Emergency Assistance Program to include families without children.

Workforce retention and economic development

The governor has asked state cabinet agencies, led jointly by the Employment Security Department and the Department of Commerce, to support economic retention, resilience and recovery efforts. Updates and new resources may be found here as they become available. 

A full list of measures, including mental health services and long-term care waivers, can be found here.