Spokane Alliance Urges County To Widely Share $90 Million In CARES Act Money

Apr 22, 2020

Episcopal Bishop Gretchen Rehberg urged the county commissioners to prioritize people and their needs when assigning the county's $90 million share of CARES Act money.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The federal government is sending about $90 million from the coronavirus recovery fund to Spokane County.

County commissioners say they’re interested in hearing how people want that to be divided. They’ve created an online survey for people to fill out.

But one Spokane group hopes they’ll do more to make sure the money gets into the right hands.

The county commissioners say they’re working with their regional partners to develop an economic recovery strategy.

Members of the Spokane Alliance worry that strategy will heavily tilt toward aid for business. Some of that is fine, they say. Bishop Gretchen Rehberg from the Episcopal Church urges the commissioners to think broadly.

“It’s vital first to remember a business is comprised of people. When we support people, we support business," Rehberg said. "Our workers need to be able to have stable and affordable housing to go home to after they work. They need good child care to entrust their children to as they work. They need access to high quality food to give them proper nutrition for their work. And so, as we seek to support our economy, thinking about who actually does the work of our businesses and who supports those workers is really important.”

Luc Jasmin from the Parkview Early Learning Center says child care is an important need for essential workers such as health care professionals and grocery store employees.

“When we look at the numbers throughout the state, there are over a thousand child cares, just like mine, that have had to close their doors, which is very problematic, given that we were in a crisis prior to this pandemic," Jasmin said.

Others are angling for money to go for rental assistance for people who have lost their jobs because of coronavirus restrictions. Jim Dawson and his wife own a co-housing facility and are part owners of a business that rents to a small yoga studio. He says many tenants are squeezed by landlords who aren’t offering much flexibility in paying their rents.

“Even if people can’t get evicted now, they’ll face a large amount of back rent they may not be able to pay back. The county commissioners are concerned about re-starting our economy. My concern is how many of our small businesses will be able to re-open if they don’t get help with rent assistance now," Dawson said.

Alliance members say they hope the commissioners will listen to a diverse group of interests as they decide how to divide the federal CURES Act money.