Senate Special Committee Releases Blueprint
It’s now week 3 of the 2021 legislative session and our team is navigating the happenings through computer screens and smartphones. The pace has not slowed as we continue to live our lives through zoom and interact in very new ways.
Of note, this week the Senate Special Committee on Economic Recovery released its Blueprint for Recovery. The committee was formed in May of 2020 and is comprised of seven bipartisan members whose primary job is to look at and evaluate how COVID-19 and the state business closures impacted our state and regional economies. According to a survey presented to the committee, Washington State had the fifth highest business closure rate in the U.S. from March 1st to September 15th. Of the 4,975 businesses in the state that closed during this period, 3,062 (62%) closed permanently. The report lays out a series of recommendations for rebuilding an economy that works for everyone who calls Washington home.
The report offers committee recommendations for various aspects and sectors of our state’s economy. According to the report these recommendations are based on testimony, data and perspectives of the presenters heard by the committee over the past 6-7 months. They are:
Focus on People at Risk of an Immediate Housing, Food, Childcare or Job Crisis
The legislature must take action to help people get back to work and support employers so that they can continue to provide jobs that families need to support themselves. This point speaks to implementing policies that keep workers from being stranded on unemployment.
Relief for Small Businesses & Supporting Hospitality & Leisure
The hospitality and leisure industry has no doubt been the hardest hit as a result of closures. In September, it was reported that nearly 5,000 businesses had closed and 60% permanently. This number has skyrocketed with the additional and long-term closures endured since early December. The report outlines a long list of recommendations that include fixed cost assistance and some measure of regulatory relief to small businesses as they recover. Suggestions included:
- Mitigating burdens of UI rate increases
- Increasing funding for programs to encourage entrepreneurship
- Strengthening the economic development ecosystem
Support the Aerospace and Manufacturing Sectors
As a major employer in Washington State, with trade uncertainties, pandemic related global impacts and the grounding of the 737 Max, Boeing and Washington’s aerospace industry have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Report recommendations included working to diversify the sector with innovative space industry programs such as SpaceX and Amazon’s satellite program. Also outlined were how tax incentives and export assistance may be important to strengthen the sector in the coming year.
Strengthening Healthcare Security
There is nothing like a health care crisis to highlight areas for improvement. Health security remains a vital component of maintaining a vibrant economy that benefits both employers and employees. Experts testified that healthcare security is critical to entrepreneurship and efficient labor markets.
Expanding Internet Access
The committee agreed that access to broadband and high-speed internet access will be critical across the entire state among all social economic groups to support education and business recovery and expand jobs and opportunities for all Washingtonians. The report offered a list of recommendations that included supporting public/private cooperative efforts and prioritizing unserved areas and low-income households.
The SCER report concluded that in addition to targeting the hardest-hit workers and small businesses, expanding health care and internet access as well as investing in aerospace and manufacturing are critical components to long-economic recovery.