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Inside Olympia – Economic Recovery from COVID

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This week: An in-depth interview with Washington Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown on the state of the Washington economy and recovery from COVID.

Brown calls the economic impacts of COVID uneven, with big negatives for some businesses, big positives for others. She talks about a “K-shaped” recovery in which the gap widens between rich and poor in Washington. As it works to help businesses recover, Commerce is focusing on certain sectors and viewing through a lens of racial and socioeconomic equity.

The skyrocketing cost of housing, coupled with an eviction moratorium that will presumably end when COVID is under control, has Brown very concerned, though $1 billion available for rental assistance should help soften the blow. Her advice to tenants and landlords: Communicate. With each other, and tenants with their utility providers — help is often available.

Commerce is deeply involved in efforts to bring high-speed internet to underserved areas of Washington. The problem is not only access to broadband, but affordability, and affects rural residents and city dwellers alike. Commerce has an office that is leading the state’s efforts to expand broadband, and two entities under the Commerce umbrella — the Public Works Board and Community Economic Revitalization Board — also are playing key roles in providing funding for broadband projects.

Brown says that despite tough times recently for Boeing, aerospace remains a strong economic force in Washington. And it’s not just airplanes — the burgeoning space sector is a big plus for the state. Brown said manufacturing in general has a future in Washington, a big challenge is finding the workforce for a new generation of manufacturing jobs.

All that and much more, this week on Inside Olympia.

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