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Gov. Inslee: Washington can’t meet ‘urgent and dire’ COVID needs without federal aid

Gov. Jay Inslee. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a letter to federal lawmakers in Congress on Thursday, urging them to come to an agreement on a new COVID-19 relief package.

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This comes amid rising cases across the United States, including in Washington, where Inslee recently announced a series of new restrictions on restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, and more.

Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been at a stalemate over a new relief package for months, adjourning for a week-long Thanksgiving recess without a deal in place. Without an infusion of federal money, there are concerns that businesses coping with recently-enacted restrictions won’t be able to stay afloat.

On Thursday, Inslee acknowledged the strain created by COVID restrictions, calling on Congress to help “provide a bridge to the period when effective vaccines are widely available to the public.”

“We are painfully aware that these steps, guided by science, will increase hardship for families, workers, and businesses that are already suffering,” he noted. “The federal government now has a responsibility to act as well.”

The Washington governor outlined a handful of measures he’d like to see Congress employ, including renewals of the paycheck protection program and federal pandemic unemployment compensation, housing and rental assistance, food assistance, money for COVID testing and vaccine distribution, and a new round of direct payments similar to the $1,200 relief checks sent out earlier in the pandemic.

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Federal pandemic unemployment compensation, providing an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance for self-employed or part-time workers, is currently on track to expire on Dec. 31. Both a national eviction moratorium and student loan forbearance program also expire at the end of the year.

“Only Congress can provide the size and scale of relief needed in this moment,” Inslee said. “In Washington State, we are on track to exhaust 100 percent of our existing CRF and federal testing funds, including tens of millions allocated this week for rental and utility assistance.”

“We are all committed to safeguarding our people from COVID-19 but, like all states, we simply cannot meet the urgent and dire needs without further federal aid,” he added.

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