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COVID-19: Billionaires' Wealth Skyrockets as WA Budget Crashes

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The billionaires who call Washington state home saw their wealth increase 28% in the first three months of the COVID-19 outbreak. (primipil/Adobe Stock)
The billionaires who call Washington state home saw their wealth increase 28% in the first three months of the COVID-19 outbreak. (primipil/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
July 15, 2020

SEATTLE -- During the pandemic, Washington's billionaires have made enough money to cover the state's 2021 budget shortfall -- with $85 billion to spare.

According to a new analysis, Washington's 12 billionaires added nearly $90 billion to their wealth between mid-March and mid-June -- the second-highest amount in the country, behind California. Meanwhile, the state predicts a $4.5 billion hole in next year's budget.

Frank Clemente, executive director of the group Americans for Tax Fairness, which co-wrote the report, said the shortfall means slashing budgets for education, housing, and food and nutrition programs.

"The inequities, the inequality that's happening in this era in America is astonishing, and it needs a remedy," he said.

The report was co-authored by the Economic Opportunity Institute and Health Care for America Now. Nationwide, it said, billionaires' wealth increased $584 billion between mid-March and mid-June. During this period, 1.3 million Washingtonians lost their jobs. Health Care for America Now executive director Margarida Jorge said that's bad news for their health insurance.

"We will expect that a lot of those people are going to lose their employer-sponsored coverage," she said. "Even people who are laid off, their job isn't permanently terminated; during the time that they're laid off, if they're going to retain their health care, they're going to have to pay the full cost of it."

Clemente said the CARES Act, passed in March to provide coronavirus relief, included a tax break for the country's millionaires. He said he wants the Senate to approve the HEROES Act, which would repeal that tax break.

"If we repeal that giveaway, we raise $250 billion. That's a quarter of a trillion dollars we would raise," he said. "That's money that could go directly into more services for folks at the community level, family level. It'd pay for extended unemployment benefits, things like that."

Clemente said he hopes Congress can pass the HEROES Act before its next recess begins on Aug. 7.

The analysis on growth in billionaires' wealth is online at opportunityinstitute.org, and the study on wealth growth vs. state budget shortfalls is at americansfortaxfairness.org.

Disclosure: Economic Opportunity Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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