Senate Democrats propose $5 million to assist businesses disrupted by coronavirus pandemic fears

By Cameron Sheppard

WNPA News Service

OLYMPIA — A last-minute amendment to the senate Democratic Caucus supplemental operating budget earmarks $5 million to help businesses negatively impacted by international responses to the coronavirus outbreak overseas.

Businesses like Cosmo Specialty Fibers, a Grays Harbor County textile producer that does 97 percent of its business with companies in Asia, have been disrupted by port closures intended to stop the spread of the disease, said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, last week. Van De Wege represents the Legislative District 24, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Habor County.

“This is a local business that has thrived despite disruptive tariff and trade wars, pays its employees strong wages, and has robust potential to expand, but it’s been thrown for a loop,” said Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, in a written statement. Takko sponsored the amendment.

Companies will be able to request assistance funds from the state’s strategic reserve account to promote economic development, which is funded by a third of all unclaimed lottery money, according to a release from the Senate Democrats.

The budget was approved by the Senate after a 33-16 vote Thursday.

The operating budget already had provided $2 million for the account, much of which was already earmarked. Budget writers added $2 million in new funds on top of that, and the $3 million in Takko’s amendment means a total of $5 million in new funds.

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This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

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