Response and Recovery Resources for Washington
We’re all in this together. As the Pacific Northwest handles dynamic changes to the way it does business, Maul Foster & Alongi, Inc., is looking to find and share opportunities that can help our clients, communities, and region persevere and emerge stronger. For more funding resources, visit our Supporting Northwest Communities page.
Funding Opportunities and Updates | September 15, 2020
Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council Helps Communities, Tribes Find Resources
If you’re a local or tribal government in Washington State, you may have heard of the Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council (IACC). In case you don’t know the IACC, this nonprofit is dedicated to helping Washington communities and tribes identify and obtain the resources they need to develop, improve, and maintain infrastructure.
IACC helps improve the delivery of infrastructure assistance by keeping its members—state and federal agencies, local government associations, tribes, and other technical nonprofits—informed of changes in infrastructure programs or services and by providing opportunities to network and gain information. One of its main opportunities is an annual statewide conference in October, during which state and federal programs assisting local governments and tribes with infrastructure needs convene to share information about their programs.
IACC also provides ongoing technical assistance to communities and tribes by bringing together the appropriate funding and technical assistance representatives and community members to collaborate on specific projects.
Governor Announces $126 Million in Additional Relief Funds
Governor Jay Inslee announced an additional $126 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) for cities and counties that did not receive direct funding from the federal government under the CARES Act. Governor Inslee also extended the deadline to use these funds to November 30, 2020.
CRF funds provide cities access to reimbursements for unbudgeted, COVID-related expenses incurred after March 27, 2020. A chart with updated allocations from the Department of Commerce is now available. For more information on CRF, be sure to check out the Association of Washington Cities’ recent webinars, particularly the webinar specific to small cities.
Inslee Extends 26 COVID-19-Related Proclamations
On September 2, Governor Inslee announced the extension of 26 proclamations made in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, including extensions related to the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
The OPMA-related proclamation extends the prohibition on conducting in-person public meetings through October 1, 2020, as approved by state legislative leaders. Local government must provide a call-in phone number, as a minimum, so everyone can hear the meeting, with video or other internet-based streaming also allowed.
Phase 3 communities can opt to allow for in-person meetings in addition to the required remote meetings with telephone access, provided all aspects of the proclamation are met, including 6 feet of physical separation between attendees, compliance with facial covering requirements, and a ten-person maximum limit. If a jurisdiction can’t meet these in-person meeting requirements, the meeting must be adjourned or continued virtually until they can be met.
State Releases Quarterly Economic and Revenue Forecast Report
The State’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council issued its June 2020 Economic and Revenue Forecast quarterly report. Here are a few of the highlights:
- State General Fund revenue collections since the February forecast are 11.1 percent below the forecasted amount, although half of the shortfall is due to deferred payment of Revenue Act and property taxes that will still be received during the current biennium.
- Gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2020 is -6.1 percent.
- Forecasts in GDP growth for 2021 through 2024 are up from previous forecasts.
- The decline in Washington employment in April was unprecedented, and unemployment reached an all-time high.
The state also issued its August 2020 Economic and Revenue update. Highlights include:
- Employment recovered in June and July.
- Transportation exports (mostly Boeing) fell 83.7 percent.
- U.S. employment increased by 1.8 million jobs in July, and the unemployment rate declined to 10.2 percent.
For local governments trying to understand what the pandemic means for their revenue forecasts, the Municipal Research and Services Center has guidance on where to find good data in a non-traditional year.
Take One Minute and Take the Washington State Broadband Survey
The Washington State Broadband Office and state Public Works Board have launched a mapping initiative to identify gaps in high-speed internet service and areas of broadband infrastructure needs to advance the state’s goal of universal broadband access in Washington by 2024.
The first step is to complete a quick access and speed survey, which can be done on any computer or mobile device.
The data gathered through the survey will provide validated information for use by any community for broadband expansion projects. It will also support pursuit of grant funding available from the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state programs such as Public Works Board and Community Economic Revitalization Board broadband financing.
Commerce Department Providing Free, Temporary Internet Access
The Washington State Department of Commerce is providing free, temporary internet access at drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots around the state in response to the impacts of COVID-19
These hotspots provide free, temporary emergency internet access for Washingtonians who do not have broadband service to their homes. Access is available to all residents, with specific emphasis on remote learning for students. This service can also be used for job searches, telehealth, telework, unemployment filing, and census participation.
The locations listed on the hotspots map represent new drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots located at Washington State University extension locations, as well as new and existing Washington State Library hotspots.
Though these hotspots were launched primarily as parking lot hotspots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free Wi-Fi is accessible regardless of how users arrive at the locations. Some sites also offer indoor public access during business hours. Everyone using the sites, whether outside or inside, must practice social distancing and proper hygiene precautions, including staying in your vehicle or at least 6 feet from other users and wearing a mask if necessary. Each hotspot will have its own security protocol. Some will be open, and others will have Children’s Internet Protection Act security installed.
Broadband equity is a challenge for many Washington State communities. Commerce’s drive-in Wi-Fi hotspot project addresses underserved and economically-disadvantaged communities in urban and suburban areas.
Funding Opportunities and Updates | July 14, 2020
Thurston County EDC helps local food hubs earn USDA contract
The Thurston County Economic Development Council was instrumental in helping local food hubs navigate the government contracting process, enabling them to win a USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program contract.
The Farmers to Families Food Box Program is purchasing up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products through national, regional and local suppliers that are packaged into family-sized food boxes and transported to food banks, community organizations, and other nonprofit groups serving Americans in need. Thurston County food hubs like Evergreen United were eligible to bid on the contract—if they could just figure out how.
The federal contracting process is long and complex, and with only a week to apply, timing was of the essence. Fortunately, help was at hand in the form of the Thurston Economic Development Council’s Washington Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). PTAC is just one of many throughout the nation, all with the same mission.
In all, 10 Washington state firms were awarded contracts. PTAC was able to directly assist Evergreen United, the Puget Sound Food Hub, and LINC Foods in Spokane obtain contracts.
Funding Opportunities and Updates | June 2, 2020
The Municipal Research Services Center has shared information and guidance for cities and counties looking to access $300 million in federal CARES Act funds being distributed by the State of Washington.
The CARES Act directly distributed funds to local governments with population above 500,000; funds for local governments that fall below this population threshold are being distributed via the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The state is distributing funds using a per-capita formula, with a minimum distribution of $250,000 for counties and $25,000 for cities and towns.
Unofficial forecasts from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) show that the State of Washington could be facing a $7 billion reduction in projected state revenues through mid-2023.
The ERFC is charged with providing the state budget outlook and, four times each year, adopting a bipartisan revenue forecast, from which the state operating budget is built. The ERFC also creates monthly economic and revenue updates that report on national and Washington State information related to economic activity, employment, and revenue projections by source.
Organizations around the Pacific Northwest are finding creative and innovative ways to support their communities during this time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority in Northcentral Washington State has developed two programs to assist the smallest businesses as they maintain operations during the pandemic and prepare for the return of “business as usual.”
Through its Rent Participation Program, the port will provide a qualifying small business with up to $1,000 in rent payment assistance if the business, landlord, and port agree to each contribute one-third of the total rent payment.
The port’s second program, the Getting Ready to Reopen Fund, allows a qualifying business to request up to $1,000 in reimbursed costs. Costs must be related to complying with proper health protocols for reopening. These could include purchase of masks, thermometers, sanitation supplies, and signage; installation of plexiglass shields; and marketing and/or advertising expenses.
These programs are available to qualifying businesses across Chelan and Douglas counties, and are a great example of local programs making a big difference in Northwest communities. Visit www.cdrpa.org/covid19-small-business-support-initiative for more information on this program and the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority.
Funding Opportunities and Updates | May 14, 2020
Discussions around the possibility of a special legislative session continue. The session likely would focus on handling COVID-19-related budget impacts for state and local governments. Statewide organizations and associations are preparing to advocate for a wide variety of community assistance and economic recovery programs, including investment in public infrastructure projects. This proven economic stimulus method has a positive economic multiplier that creates family-wage jobs and supports increased economic activity.
Gov. Inslee announced April 27 that nearly $300 million of the state’s federal stimulus funding will be awarded to local governments that did not receive direct distributions under the CARES Act. Funds will be provided to cities and counties that were ineligible to receive direct funding under the CARES Act because their populations number below 500,000.
The governor’s news release indicated that the state would distribute a minimum of $250,000 to each county and a minimum of $25,000 to each city. Specific allocations can be found here.
Funds can be used to cover critical, COVID-19-related expenses, such as isolation and quarantine sites, staffing, and purchase of medical supplies and equipment for health care providers and first responders.
Gov. Inslee has established three Safe Start community advisory groups that will work in tandem with ongoing efforts to ensure that Washington State can reopen safely for everyone. One of these advisory groups, led by Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown, will be focused on “Safe Work and Economic Recovery.”
The Department of Commerce is distributing CARES Act funding via Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. These funds are currently targeted for back rental and utility payments and emergency homeless shelters. CARES Act funding through CDBG programs is not currently being directed toward more typical, ongoing public health efforts.
The Association of Washington Cities, the Washington State Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and other local government associations are advocating for direct federal support to local governments with populations below 500,000 as part of the next phase of the federal stimulus package.