SEATTLE — Washington state is set to receive nearly $3 billion from the federal stimulus bill passed to help with the economic hit from the coronavirus outbreak.
But the amount to be allocated to local governments, which are taking huge budget hits due to the shutdown of many businesses, will be decided by the U.S. Department of Treasury in the coming weeks, said Casey Katims, Gov. Jay Inslee’s director of federal and interstate affairs.
At least $1.6 billion will go directly to the state, Katims said.
A day after the release of a website, tinyurl.com/PDN-business complaint, where people can report violations of non-essential businesses operating in violation of the governor’s current stay-at-home order, the state has received more than 4,000 complaints through the online form, according to David Postman, Inslee’s chief of staff.
Postman said staff members will wade through the complaints and follow up with the businesses.
The public has been told to not call 9-1-1 to report individuals or private groups who are not following the proclamation, but should instead contact local law enforcement.
State and local law enforcement officials will be able to issue citations and penalties if education isn’t enough to close nonessential businesses under the state’s emergency order, the Spokesman-Review said.
The “vast majority” of Washington residents and businesses are following that order, Inslee said Monday.
But some agencies have received complaints or questions from the public about things they see that might be violations.
The first step in handling a complaint will be to tell a business it needs to stop violating the law, Inslee said. If that doesn’t work, a business will be told the state or local government could take action to revoke a permit or the business license.
The final step would be to refer the business to the state Attorney General’s office to take action for violating the order, which is a gross misdemeanor.
“The last thing we want to do is actually arrest somebody,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste said.
The state attorney general is warning Amazon sellers who hike prices on virus-related products like hand sanitizer and face masks that he could sue them.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office said Tuesday it sent letters to five Washington-based independent sellers who raised prices.
“We will use all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price-gouging during this public health emergency,” Ferguson said in a statement.
Ferguson said one seller based in Spokane raised the price of an 8-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer from just over $3.50 in January to an average price of more than $25 — a more than 600 percent increase. Some buyers may have paid as much as $40 for the product.
Washington National Guard troops are working with a unit of U.S. Army soldiers from Colorado who are setting up a field hospital for non-coronavirus patients at the CenturyLink Field Events Center in Seattle.