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Morning Wire: Policy cutoff, Targeting economic development, The “double pandemic”

Wire publisher DJ Wilson has a story out this morning on our sister site about the South African variant and what “chronic COVID” could mean. He draws upon data from Chris Murray, the Director of IHME, who has led forecasting of COVID that is among the most accurate of any US entity tracking the disease.

As always, thanks for reading. 

1. Bills moving ahead of committee cutoff

With the policy committee cutoff just one week away, executive action is the name of the game this week. The Senate passed several bills out of committee yesterday between Labor, Commerce, & Tribal Affairs and Early Learning and Education. House Appropriations has six bills teed up for action today, including Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon’s Clean Fuel Standard.  

The Democratic “step one” COVID relief package is headed to the Senate floor on Wednesday. After it passed in the House, I asked Rep. Drew Stokesbary for his take on why Democrats didn’t embrace using rainy day funds for a larger package. He said Democrats are using Republican arguments to avoid funding priorities they’ve long supported. Democrats say there is more relief to come after this package. Listen to Stokesbary’s full answer here at about 44:48. Gov. Inslee signed SB 5061 yesterday, providing tax relief for businesses and an increase in the minimum weekly unemployment benefit.

2. Outbreak and social isolation: the long-term care “double pandemic” 

Advocates for long-term care residents warn that many are feeling the weight of overlapping pandemics – both of which disproportionately impact seniors. As a result, AARP Washington State has been vocal in support of HB 1218 – a bill headed to executive session this week that would require long-term care facilities to honor a new set of “resident rights.”

spoke with Cathy MacCaul, AARP Washington State Advocacy Director, about how the coronavirus broke the “safety net of social inclusion,” and what that has meant for long-term care facilities and their residents. She also spoke candidly about the opposition advocates have faced from the long-term care industry, as well as what Washington’s long-term care system does right. 

3. How legislators can direct economic development to struggling communities  

Geographically targeted, or “place-based,” economic development programs have received investments to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars over several decades to revitalize struggling communities. But a new Pew report finds that the criteria states use to geographically target economic development programs are often ill-conceived or out-of-date. As a result, the report finds that placed-based programs can end up serving wealthy locations instead of disadvantaged ones.

According to Pew, better targeting will ensure struggling communities are the beneficiaries of place-based programs, rather than communities already doing well. To improve the way place-based programs are targeted, Pew recommends systematically assessing geographic targeting; regularly updating the set of eligible locations; tailoring economic development strategies to local needs; and creating job opportunities for low-income residents. 

4.  The road to economic recovery on the ground and from space

With phrases like “Build Back Better” and “REAL Recovery” floating in the ether, legislators are narrowing their focus on those most in need. Economic development in Native communities has historically been constrained by a lack of capital. A bipartisan bill that is the culmination of work over three biennium would create the Equitable Access to Credit Program. The program would support Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) – funds that utilize federal dollars alongside private sector capital to generate growth in disadvantaged communities.

For the state’s hard-hit aerospace suppliers, advocates of the space economy say that diversification will provide a path toward recovery. A house bill heard last week would direct COM to study the geographic distribution of space economy sector employment and training opportunities across Washington. When surveyed, 16 Washington State aerospace companies reported a 47% single year loss in revenue in 2020. That computed to a 23% loss in total employment at those 16 companies. Aerospace diversification is one of five core recommendations for long-term economic recovery in Washington State.

5. Health care bills spur debate

In the spirit of #waleg debate, we’d like to highlight two pieces of commentary this week from readers tracking health care policy. In response to our reporting on SB 5020: “Rx Drug Price Increases,” Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc.says policymakers are “laser focused on punishing pharmaceutical companies by relying on flawed discriminatory information that restricts access to needed treatments.”

Following our coverage of a bill which would require health carriers to reimburse advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) at the same rate as physicians, Physicians for Patient Protection offered their take on the bill in this op-ed, saying “With the cost of additional years of education, higher licensing fees, board certification fees, and continuing education, physicians pay far more than nurse practitioners for the right to practice medicine.”

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