Gov. Jay Inslee announced steps to give some financial relief to commercial and residential renters in recognition of the toll that the coronavirus is taking on Washington state residents, even as a handful of them flouted restrictions by protesting at the Capitol.
Inslee originally put in place a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent in mid-March, but it didn’t cover all units in the state. The new order, announced on April 16, is much broader, encompassing other forms of dwellings such as lots and parcels where recreational vehicles and motor homes park, transitional housing and public lands.
It prohibits enforcement of agreements to vacate, the assessment of late fees and the practice of moving non-paying tenants to “lesser” units. It also prevents landlords from increasing rents or deposits for residential and commercial units, although it only applies to commercial units if the business has been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
The new proclamation will be in effect through June 4.
“People have lost their livelihoods through no fault of their own and we must continue to take steps to ensure they don’t also lose the roofs over their heads,” Inslee said in a statement.
Washington state had the first known coronavirus case in the United States, but it has also made significant progress slowing its spread. Even so, it will take time to loosen the restrictions on movement, economic activities and mass gatherings to ensure that the virus doesn’t come raging back.
That reality hasn’t sat well with everyone.
According to The New York Times, as many as 2,500 people came to Olympia on April 19 to protest the continued “stay home, stay healthy” order, ignoring advice from health professionals to maintain a buffer of at least 6 feet between them.
Similar protests popped up throughout the country, fed in part by statements from President Donald Trump, who tweeted about “liberating” certain states and told reporters that he did not want the cure to be worse than the disease.
Washington state and the federal government have stepped in with economic relief for people who have lost their jobs, expanding the group of people who can receive unemployment insurance, boosting the amount that unemployment insurance pays out every month and sending out $1,200 payments to most Americans making under $75,000.
Many will receive payment through direct deposit. Those who don’t may get a physical check. Those checks have been delayed by a matter of weeks because the Treasury Department decided to print Trump’s name on the memo line, according to multiple news outlets.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the Apr. 22-28, 2020 issue.