The social and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated action by every level of government to help individuals and businesses. Funding passed at the federal level has made its way to the local level for appropriations. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which the President signed into law on March 27th, is the largest pandemic spending package in U.S. history.
Direct payments to state and local governments are a significant component of the CARES Act. Snohomish County received $143 million to help respond to the pandemic and provide relief and support to our residents. There are certain criteria which govern how the funds can be used to ensure that the appropriations are related to COVID-19 relief.
The Snohomish County Council is working with the County Executive and community partners to determine the best use of the funds. Over the coming weeks, we will considering decisions to allocate the money to support efforts including economic and workforce development, emergency and public health response, and housing and human services.
I believe it is critical that we work to direct some of these federal funds directly to the small businesses who are fighting for survival. Each day that passes, more small businesses are closing down. I regularly speak with many of our local businesses in North County and it is heartbreaking to hear about the economic devastation which is occurring and negatively impacting people’s livelihoods.
This is a loss not only to our small business owners, but also to the individuals they employ and to the community as a whole. The federal CARES Act dollars can play a role in supporting these businesses through this very difficult time. I have been advocating for using CARES Act funding for direct grants to small businesses to keep them afloat during this time and keep jobs until we return to some sense of normal.
The economic disruption caused by the pandemic has also created a significant burden for residents to continue to provide housing and essential support for their families. That is why we will be considering appropriating a portion of CARES Act dollars towards rental and mortgage support for those most affected by the economic shutdown. We will also be considering making historic investments into our local food banks who have served as a crucial lifeline to many families in our communities.
In addition to relief for small business, housing, and food, we will also be considering funding for the direct costs associated with the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including emergency response and public health. These are just a few of the many opportunities Snohomish County has to invest the CARES funding into our communities.
In summary, we are working diligently to stretch every dollar to help keep people in their homes, keep businesses open, and help the most vulnerable among us. These historic investments will be essential to helping our communities weather this storm moving forward.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 388-3494.