Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Hour by hour, the news continues to change about the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. This email update is to provide resources to help you and your family in this constant changing health crisis.
Unprecedented life changes
Last Friday, the governor announced closure of all public and private schools in the state, as well as classroom instruction at our higher education institutions. On Monday, he signed a proclamation to temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities. Take-out, drive-thru and delivery services are permitted, but no in-person dining, at least through the end of this month.
All social gatherings with more than 50 participants are now prohibited in Washington state. And gatherings with less than 50 are prohibited unless previously announced criteria for public health and social distancing are met. President Trump has recommended avoiding groups of 10 or more people.
As businesses close and employees face layoffs, many of our local chambers of commerce are being inundated with calls from employers and employees alike, desperate to find help.
As your state representative, I am here to help and to provide resources. Our communications team with the state House Republican Caucus in Olympia compiled a list of resources and information dedicated to helping Washington citizens cope with the coronavirus crisis. Please click here for that website to help answer concerns and questions you may have. I encourage you to also share this link with your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors: http://houserepublicans.wa.gov/coronavirus.
Here are additional links to help you find what you need:
Employers and employees
State agencies have been working with federal agencies, employers and workers to support businesses and workers affected by COVID-19.
- The Employment Security Department has information for employees and employers about possible benefits, such as paid family and medical leave, unemployment benefits and SharedWork.
- The Department of Commerce is working with the federal Small Business Administration to secure loan assistance, and also has information for businesses experiencing trade impacts.
- The Department of Labor and Industries oversees the state's paid sick leave law, the workers' compensation program and workplace safety issues.
- The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations to help employers keep their workers safe with sick leave policies, cleaning routines, etc.
- Health insurers have been ordered to waive deductibles and co-pays for coronavirus testing. You can get more information about how different types of insurance coverage may be affected here.
- For Washingtonians without health insurance, the Washington Health Benefits Exchange opened a limited-time special enrollment period through April 8. Go here for information.
- The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has information about insurance coverage businesses need to protect themselves from potential losses.
Small business loans
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- SBA also has a “Three Step Process” to apply for disaster loans. Check that out here.
- The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has developed a list of financial resources for Washington consumers impacted by COVID-19. Go here to view that list.
Guidance for state agencies
- Information from the Office of Financial Management can be found here to help state organizations prepare for and respond to issues and questions related to COVID-19.
Further resources from the state
- The state of Washington has prepared this Coronavirus Response page with other links that provide resources and information.
Help from the Legislature
During the legislative session, the House and Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2965, which uses $175 million from the rainy day fund for state and local agencies to fight the disease. It also provides $25 million to the newly-created COVID-19 unemployment account. This will allow employers who have employees receiving unemployment insurance benefits due to the virus outbreak to have those charges reimbursed by the state. In addition, the bill allows the state Board of Education to grant emergency waivers to high school students who won't meet certain graduation requirements if their schools are closed for extended periods.
One Washington in this crisis
Although the legislative session finished last Thursday, March 12, the coronavirus crisis has demanded we do not rest. I have been in conference calls with other lawmakers and leaders in Olympia who are working from every angle to protect public health and small businesses across the state.
As House Republican Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox said Tuesday on a radio report, “This is not Republicans or Democrats right now. This is the Washington team trying to do the best thing for public health and for the economy, all at the same time.”
Last month, a long-term care center in Kirkland became the epicenter of this virus in the United States. While Kirkland is on the other side of the Cascades, none of us are immune. We believe this is one of the most serious challenges our state will face, not only in this decade, but quite possibly in the history of Washington.
COVID-19 – A sobering threat
In only two weeks, we have jumped to 1,187 confirmed cases in Washington. See the Department of Health website for latest statistics. This includes one case in Franklin County, one in Lincoln County, four cases in Spokane County and eight in neighboring Grant County. This does not take into account the unknown amount of unconfirmed and untested cases. As of yesterday afternoon, March 18, the virus has claimed 66 lives — most in King and Snohomish counties, but one fatality in Grant County. The elderly (people over 60) and those with underlying health conditions are most severely affected.
State and federal leaders believe these numbers will continue to grow — and the United States may be about two weeks behind Spain and Italy in terms of potential devastation from this pandemic. A biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle estimates there could be as many as 40,000 unconfirmed cases right now in the U.S.
For these reasons, it is strongly recommended that people practice social distancing (at least six feet) and, if possible, isolate themselves from others by staying and working at home. We realize this may not be completely realistic in some cases, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and your families right now. It's time to take this threat SERIOUSLY.
Prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with an elbow, sleeve or tissue.
- Good personal habits (diet/exercise) help prevent respiratory infections, including coronaviruses and influenza.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
President Trump has issued official Coronavirus Guidelines for America, which asks citizens to take certain steps for the next 15 days to slow the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control has also created a website to help you and your family protect yourself against this outbreak.
Together, we will get through this
There's no question our lives are different now than just two weeks ago. Children are home from school. Working parents are trying to balance work and staying home to take care of their children. Many people are temporarily working from home as businesses try to survive. Lots of folks are worried about their jobs, their health and their future.
Especially in our district, we've survived fires, drought, low yields on our farms, and other hard times — and for the most part, we came through. Our people are resilient. I am so fortunate to live in an area where communities come together during difficult times and our neighbors, churches and service groups help each other. Although this health crisis will be disruptive and touch far too many lives, I'm confident we will pull through this together.
My office stands ready to help in any way possible, especially if you find roadblocks navigating through state agencies during this crisis. Feel free to reach out if you have questions or concerns. I'm just an email or a phone call away. My contact information is below.
Above all, please stay safe. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you!