Gov. Jay Inslee today introduced a new state effort to help communities recover from the social and economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the state continues to battle the deadly virus, the Washington Recovery Group will help strengthen the state’s recovery efforts. The new group will help state agencies coordinate with local governments, higher education and the private sector.
“COVID-19 has tested our state in many ways and each crisis is a learning experience,” Inslee said. “While local governments, businesses and our agencies have made heroic efforts to protect and care for our communities, this crisis highlights gaps we need to close in our emergency recovery efforts and long-term rebuilding efforts. This new group will help state agencies change how we do business so that we can better serve the people of Washington.”
State agency experts will work with local stakeholders and tribal partners to implement recovery solutions and pathways. Those ideas and policy solutions will be presented to cabinet agencies and the Office of Financial Management. The areas of focus include:
- Community and social services
- Education and childcare
- Employment and jobs
- Equity and social justice
- Health and healthcare
- Infrastructure and energy
- Support for small business
"The Washington Recovery Group main goal is to help communities move more quickly to recovery. While agencies already work together on many COVID-19 response efforts, this group will help agencies and their stakeholders to collaborate more effectively and efficiently," David Schumacher, OFM director said.
Besides sickening more than 80,000 Washingtonians, the pandemic has impacted communities across the state in many ways.
The state’s unemployment rate skyrocketed from a record-low rate of 3.8% in February to more than 16% in April, when nearly 650,000 Washingtonians were out of work. The unemployment rate remains more than twice as high as it was in February.
State revenue collections also took a severe initial hit, with April retail sales tax receipts falling 20.8% compared to the same period a year ago. Revenue collections have begun to rebound, but the state still faces a significant projected shortfall in its next two-year budget when recovery expenses will continue to rise. The WRG will help identify solutions that work within budget realties and community priorities.
The number of participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families rose from fewer than 56,000 in February to more than 72,000 in May. And basic food program participation – outside of food bank visits – increased nearly 18% between February and July.
“We know our economy needs help, we know people are hurting, and we know a more coordinated community focused effort going forward will benefit everyone,” Inslee said.
The Washington Recovery Group will be housed at the Office of Financial Management, which will partner with the Emergency Management Division of the state’s Military Department. The WRG, led by Dan McConnon, is scheduled to hold its first meeting later this month.