WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), joined the entire Washington state congressional delegation in pushing President Trump to issue a major disaster declaration to help address the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. This declaration would open up a full suite of Individual Assistance Programs as requested by Governor Inslee for Washington state, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Legal Services, Disaster Care Management, Crisis Counseling Assistance, and Training Program, Individuals and Households Program Assistance, Voluntary Agency Coordination, and Mass Care and Emergency Assistance. Congressman Smith joined U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), as well as U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA, 5th), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3rd), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Dan Newhouse (R-WA, 4th), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th) in the letter.

“Taken together, the effects of this virus are unprecedented,” the Delegation wrote. “Governor Inslee and the Washington Emergency Management Division have implemented necessary precautions in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, since this public health crisis began state and local government resources have been overwhelmed. This is unsustainable for our state and highlights why federal support is necessary.”

The Delegation continued: “We fully support Governor Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration and ask that you grant the full suite of Individual Assistance programs as soon as possible.”

COVID-19 has caused, and continues to cause, unprecedented disruption of normal community functions including lifesaving and life-sustaining services, essential community services, and the overall health and safety of all residents in Washington state. Schools have been closed across the state, impacting students’ access to nutritious meals and more. Additionally, with major employers closing their doors or encouraging employees to work from home, small business, hospitality, and entertainment commerce has dropped precipitously across the state, especially in the Puget Sound region. The additional programs granted to the state under a major disaster declaration would go a significant way towards getting local and state governments the resources they need to meet these challenges.  

Read the full letter below or HERE.

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of Governor Jay Inslee’s March 20, 2020 request for a declaration of a major disaster for the State of Washington. On January 20, 2020, the first domestic case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) was reported in Washington state. Since that time, our constituents have grappled with 1,376 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 74 have resulted in fatality as of March 19, 2020. These numbers are anticipated to grow as the disease spreads rapidly in the coming weeks. Specifically, we urge you to authorize the full suite of Individual Assistance Programs as requested by Governor Inslee, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Legal Services, Disaster Care Management, Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, Individuals and Households Program Assistance, Voluntary Agency Coordination, and Mass Care and Emergency Assistance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and continues to cause, unprecedented disruption of normal community functions including lifesaving and life-sustaining services and essential community services. COVID-19 threatens the overall health and safety of all residents in the state. The rapid spread of the virus has led to extensive closures of schools and cancellations of gatherings, public events, and conferences, straining state and local economies, and placing a considerable burden on state and local public health workers, emergency responders, health care systems, and government officials.

In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Governor has suspended in-person classroom instruction for school districts and institutions of higher education have been advised to create plans for distance learning. Closures of schools have created issues for vulnerable families who struggle to afford child care, food, and other services provided by schools. For example, the 1,106,784 children in Washington state who regularly receive free and reduced meals are no longer able to easily access these meals.

The small business community in our state has suffered substantial economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major employers are closing their doors or encouraging employees to work from home. Small businesses have been forced to close, while hospitality and entertainment commerce has dropped precipitously across the Puget Sound region. Many businesses do not have sufficient capital to withstand closures lasting multiple weeks, forcing them to take drastic measures, including temporary lay-offs, to stay afloat and several tribal-owned businesses have closed.

Taken together, the effects of this virus are unprecedented. Governor Inslee and the Washington Emergency Management Division have implemented necessary precautions in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, since this public health crisis began state and local government resources have been overwhelmed. This is unsustainable for our state and highlights why federal support is necessary.

We fully support Governor Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration and ask that you grant the full suite of Individual Assistance programs as soon as possible. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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