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$135 million allocated to help Washington businesses, workers hit hard by new COVID restrictions

Gov. Jay Inslee announced $135 million in federal CARES Act funds to help businesses, workers and families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington state.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee announced a $135 million federal relief package Friday that will provide financial support for small businesses, workers and families who have been hit hard by Washington's new novel coronavirus restrictions.

"We know this pandemic is taking an economic toll," Inslee said during a press conference Friday. "On Sunday we announced $50 million in business supports, but after more discussions with legislators and our agencies, we’ve agreed on how to more than double that."

The package includes $70 million in business support grants, which will be distributed by the Department of Commerce. It also includes $30 million in business loans, $20 million for rental assistance, which will also help landlords, and finally $15 million for energy assistance for low-income families.

Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown said businesses should be able to apply for the grants within the next week and it will be through the department's website. There will not be restrictions on what businesses can use the grant money for, Brown said.

"We know this is hard on these small businesses, and we know that this will not fully solve the burden so many business owners are shouldering," Brown said. "But it will help get some of them get through a difficult period. We are going to keep working with legislators, congress and other partners on securing additional support."

Inslee also announced a cap on third-party delivery fees to help restaurants struggling to stay afloat. The proclamation caps delivery fees at 15% and total fees at 18% of the purchase price of an order.

"This is a significant relief effort," Inslee said. "I can’t say it’s going to help everyone, but I can say we are not done yet collaborating with our partners to find more funds."

Inslee wrote a letter to Congress earlier this week urging leaders to continue negotiations for another coronavirus relief package that he is hoping will be signed into law by the end of the year.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture reports the number of people relying on food assistance in Washington state has doubled to 2.2 million people.

In the letter, Inslee explained how hard Washington residents are struggling with hundreds of thousands of residents out of a job, hungry and experiencing housing insecurity.

"These needs will only grow worse as additional core provisions of the CARES Act are set to expire at the end of 2020, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and existing Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF)," Inslee wrote.

According to Inslee, Washington is on track to exhaust all of the state's coronavirus relief funds.

"Americans will face irreparable harm if small businesses, families, workers, and state and local governments are forced to confront the coming months without immediate federal action," the letter says. "Only Congress can provide the size and scale of relief needed in this moment."

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