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Snohomish County Councilmember: Priority for recovery funds is to support our businesses

Tents set up in downtown Edmonds. (MyNorthwest photo)

Things are looking good in Snohomish County as it relates to COVID-19 numbers, but with the state set to reopen soon, how does the recovery look economically?

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“COVID has had a devastating impact, not just the virus, but obviously the state restrictions that have been put down on several of our businesses and others have had a really devastating impact on our economy here in Snohomish County,” Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show.

“What we’re working on internally at the local level is putting together a plan, both in the near term and the long term, to try to work toward an economic recovery,” he continued. “And one of the things that’s going to be really key to that plan is the federal money, which was appropriated, which I’m sure you know about. As somebody who’s very fiscally conservative, I’m not a fan of the way that the federal money was appropriated. I think it’s way too much and it ran out the federal deficit. But that was a decision that was made by Congress. They sent about $162 million to Snohomish County to be spent on COVID recovery related items.”

So now, the county council is starting discussions on how best to spend those funds in order to advance the recovery from COVID-19.

If it were up to Nehring, the top priority for the recovery funds should be supporting local businesses.

“The reason for that is I think government did so much harm to businesses in the last year, year and a half, and I think that needs to be the focus,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of businesses struggling. Some of them have gone out of business, and won’t be coming back. But a lot of the ones that are still around are struggling.”

“There are new challenges coming up, like now, for example, where it’s very difficult to hire folks,” he added. “And so I think anything we can do with these ARPA funds — the American Rescue Plan Act funds — in order to support our businesses and help them to recover. And then I think, in turn, that’s going to help support our local economies and get everyone back on track.”

Other examples for spending may include improving broadband access in rural areas, and helping both landlords and tenants who really are struggling to pay rent due to COVID-19 impacts with issues created by the eviction moratorium.

“This has really hurt landlords and tenants, but there’s a lot of situations I’ve heard of personally in north Snohomish County, in the area I represent, where landlords have tenants who are working, they are making money, but they’re refusing to pay rent as a result of this eviction moratorium,” Nehring said. “And so I think prioritizing these funds in ways that can get those landlords assistance, in addition to renters who are in legitimate situations where they’re not able to pay as a result of COVID.”

“I think all those are ideas for priorities, but the number one should be supporting our businesses,” he said.

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The plan is now at the county executive’s office in Snohomish County and he’s working on developing a spending proposal, Nehring says. He hopes that the money is prioritized first for those businesses that have been most damaged by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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