Rep. Abbarno: COVID bill uses federal money to deliver bigger government, not real relief

Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives voted Monday on a bill that would spend $2.2 billion of federal money on COVID relief. Rep. Peter Abbarno was among 36 Republicans who reluctantly voted no on the Democratic-sponsored measure. Many felt the bill was not enough to provide real comprehensive relief to struggling businesses and families.

“I came to Olympia to help create opportunities to make small businesses better and families stronger — to invest in them — not allocate federal money just to make government bigger. I voted no because my priorities go so far beyond this legislation. This is just not enough,” said Abbarno, R-Centralia.

Abbarno said he would have preferred the REAL Recovery for Washington Act, (House Bill 1334), a measure sponsored by House Republican Budget Leader Rep. Drew Stokesbary, which proposed $4 billion in relief — nearly twice as much as the Democratic proposal, House Bill 1368. Stokesbary's bill would have used $1.8 billion in federal money and $2.1 billion from the state's rainy-day fund.

Republicans offered six amendments that focused on providing more rental and utility assistance, helping child care providers, supporting small businesses, safely reopening schools and assisting students who have fallen behind.

During debate, Abbarno urged members to support amendments to help schools safely reopen and provide $340 million for accelerated learning opportunities for students.

“As the husband of a great middle school math teacher and a father of two elementary school-aged students, I know how important this is. It's really heartbreaking to see the needs in my community, from my wife's students and from my children's friends. But this legislation focuses on programs with federal money, rather than real relief that would make a difference in the lives of my neighbors,” said Abbarno.

“Here I stand to make a request for them and for our communities across the state. This amendment doesn't spend money — it invests in our students, our families and educational opportunities and delivers much needed support directly where it belongs — in the hands of the families most impacted by COVID 19,” Abbarno continued.

Democrats rejected five of the six of the Republican amendments, choosing not to use any of the state's rainy-day fund for COVID relief and opting to only appropriate money provided by the federal government.

“I'm just utterly disappointed. My priorities are investing in people, empowering communities and creating opportunities for our businesses and families. This bill falls short from doing what we can,” said Abbarno. “My vote sends a message to my district that this bill falls woefully short and does not measure anywhere near my commitment and promises to our communities — to lift families out of poverty through investments in them. Our community members have needs now. Unfortunately, my priorities were not the priorities of the majority.”

The measure passed the House, 61-36.

Abbarno joined other Republican leaders in calling for all lawmakers to come together during the remaining three months of the legislative session and pass additional comprehensive relief for struggling Washington families and businesses.

For a side-by-side comparison between the Republican and Democratic COVID relief plans, go to: tinyurl.com/2q5sxbr4.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov