Washingtonians in flux over federal stimulus package delay


Oct. 8, 2020 —

Washington state politicians are disappointed that the second federal stimulus bill of the COVID-19 pandemic was not discussed during the vice-presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris on Oct. 7.

The stimulus bill became a hot topic nationwide on Oct. 6, when President Donald Trump tweeted that he would be delaying the negotiations until after Election Day on Nov. 3.

“I was surprised they didn’t have a question on that tonight about how either candidate felt about the negotiation so far,” said Barry Buchanan, a member of the Whatcom County Council. “I just couldn’t believe yesterday the president said that he told his aides to quit negotiating.”

Buchanan said that the stimulus bill is particularly important for local governments, who rely on federal funding during hard economic times.

“We need local dollars to be able to replace a lot of the money that we’ve spent on the coronavirus,” Buchanan said. “As a local official, that was one of my biggest concerns of the whole debate right now in Washington D.C. — how to get money out to local jurisdictions to help us get back on our feet.”

William Casey, the communications director for the Washington state Democratic Party, said that the state’s government often relies on federal funding for public health departments, fire departments, pandemic response and contact tracing, among other things.

Trump cited the cost and distribution of the bill as his reasoning for delaying negotiations.

“Nancy Pelosi [Speaker of the House of Representatives] is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19,” Trump tweeted. “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.”

Charles Carrell, the Republican candidate for Washington state Legislative District 40 Position 2, said that he also would have liked to see the stimulus bill talked about in the debate.

“Yeah, I wish they would have brought that up too,” Carrell said. “[But] I understand they have a limited amount of time — you can’t talk about everything.”

He also said that unnecessary add-ons to legislation can delay negotiations, and that they are often used as political tactics.

“[Legislators] can tell you that people always add things in that have nothing to do with the actual bill and you’re basically blackmailing the other side to sign off on all these extras in order to get the thing you want, which is bad politics,” Carrell said. “[They] should have just signed that and dealt with the rest of those issues later, but apparently that’s not going to happen.”

According to Congress’ website, the Heroes Act would grant each individual another $1,200 stimulus check, provide emergency funding to state and local governments, and fund COVID-19 testing and contract tracing, among other things. The website also says that it would expand other programs and policies such as immigration, prisons, federal elections, health insurance, the U.S. Postal Service and more. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act on May 15. It has not been passed by the U.S. Senate.

“The idea was to provide comprehensive relief to families and to help folks who are on the frontlines, [but] unfortunately after the passage of that, Mitch McConnell’s response in the senate was, ‘Let’s just pause,’” said Derek Kilmer, a U.S. Representative for Washington’s sixth congressional district. “The virus hasn’t paused.”

Trump sent out another tweet on Tuesday evening suggesting that he would sign a bill that had only the $1,200 stimulus checks and no other conditions.

“If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now,” Trump tweeted.

Jim McKinney, the committee chairman for the local Re-Elect Trump Campaign and a volunteer for the Whatcom Republican party, said that the stimulus negotiations are a political game on both sides. He said that Republicans do not want to send money to states like New York that have mismanaged their budgets, while the Democrats want to bail out those states. He also said that he supports giving stimulus checks to individuals but not governments.

“People that need it, I think that’s important, those people are out of jobs,” McKinney said. “I strongly support giving those people the benefit. What I don’t see is massive amounts of money to bail out governments.”

While the Heroes Act was not mentioned during the debate, Kilmer said that the delay has had negative consequences for Washingtonians.

“[I heard from] a business owner in Tacoma [who said] ‘It took me 30 years to build my business, and now I have to shut it down,’” Kilmer said. “’I wanted to pass it onto my kids, and I just can’t.’ Their struggles did not pause.”