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After mayoral veto, Seattle Council passes smaller COVID-19 economic relief bill

The Seattle City Council voted Wednesday to override Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of its COVID-19 relief bill while agreeing to scale the plan back by millions as the economic crisis around the pandemic worsens.

Wednesday’s 6-2 vote overcame Durkan’s objections to the plan that will draw down on the city’s reserve funds in what the council hopes is a near-term fix until the city’s new tax on the payrolls of its largest companies can replenish the funds in 2021. The council’s most fiscally conservative member Alex Pedersen and Andrew Lewis were the votes against the override over concerns about a worsening economic forecast for the city and Lewis’s hopes to forge a compromise with the mayor.

But the council did give ground Wednesday, slashing the planned draw-down required for the funding plan from $86 million to $57 million. The Seattle Times reports the COVID-19 relief spending will break down like this:

  • $22 million for rent assistance and homeless shelters
  • $12 million for grocery vouchers for immigrants and refugees
  • $10 million for small business assistance
  • $9 million for grocery vouchers for others
  • $2 million for child care assistance
  • $2 million for affordable housing providers, mortgage counseling and foreclosure prevention

The new version of the spending plan also could allow Mayor Durkan to hold back some of the $57 million if necessary as economic conditions worsen. The new plan also include $3 million in community outreach over the upcoming fall budget session as the process to defund the Seattle Police Department continues.

The council Wednesday voted 7-1 to approve the updated spending plan. District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who joined colleagues on the vote to override Durkan’s veto of the original bill, was the lone holdout. Wednesday, Sawant characterized the new $56 million spending plan as a ‘budget cut.” “Especially in this city which has long been a tax haven for the wealthiest, the city council and the mayor should do everything in their power to increase the Amazon Tax for whatever the shortfall is,” Sawant said.


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