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Rep. Timm Ormsby provides update on covid relief legislation

Rep. Timm Ormsby (D – Spokane), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is the prime sponsor of the Democratic COVID-19 relief package. The bill is scheduled for debate on the House floor Monday evening.

Ormsby says the goal is for the bill to pass after debate and arrive in the Senate in time for the Ways & Means Committee to hear the House version Tuesday afternoon.

After he left the House floor on Friday evening, I caught up with Ormsby for a brief update on the Democratic relief package and other covid related economic bills.

Michael Goldberg:  The majority of funding in the Democratic relief package is a result of federal stimulus dollars approved by Congress. The package will not dip into the state’s rainy day reserves. The most recent revenue projections don’t look as dire but it still appears to be raining. Why shouldn’t legislators make use of the rainy day reserves?

Rep. Timm Ormsby: Those are our nuts and berries for winter. Those are the things that are going to get us through in the event of lean times coming forward on the revenue side if they are still playing games in Washington D.C. trying to hold off the forthcoming relief package.

The uncertainty we’ve been through over the last 10 months may very well continue. I do not relish the prospect of not having a cushion for the state to be able to continue the programs and services we are currently operating without anything to fall back on.

While there may be an economic benefit to putting a lot of money into the economy in the short term, it does nothing to enhance our prospects during the uncertainty of the future.”

MG: You just left the House floor where ESSB 5061 was passed. This bill will provide some unemployment insurance tax relief and benefit increases. Why is this bill the first economic relief bill headed to the governor’s task?

TO: That bill provides benefit increases for low-wage unemployed workers, lifting the minimum benefit amount and will save businesses $1.2 billion in unemployment tax liability and over the course of the next several years, it builds back up the unemployment trust fund while maintaining stability for the employers that pay into that system.

It was the unemployment system and those benefits that stabilized the economy when so many folks were at home and adhering to public health guidelines. Those checks kept folks engaged in the economy and eased their own anxiety with respect to paying for food, paying rent and other day-to-day issues. So that bill is on its way to the Governor. There is a whole array of bills on every front. Much of them economic, much of them just making sure we’re taking care of people.”

MG: Another area where the Democratic relief package differs from the Stokesbary alternative is the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC). There is another WFTC bill scheduled to be heard in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday. What separates some of these different proposals?

TO: My understanding of the Stokesbary Working Families Tax Credit as it was presented in his COVID-19 relief package is that it was using the same definition of eligibility that has historically been in place and providing an enhanced benefit on top of that, but only through the end of this fiscal year; whereas the ongoing Working Families Tax Credit is a proposal with that eligibility and with that benefit amount ongoing.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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