Election Year Restrictions, COVID-19 Resources, & My Report on the 2019-20 Biennium

Dear friends and neighbors,

Thank you for continuing to stay home to stay healthy during this pandemic.

Starting May 11th, election year activity restrictions will prohibit me from sending email updates like these until the November election is certified. In addition, my legislative website will be frozen and my official Facebook page will be down during that time. If the Legislature is called into special session, I will be able to temporarily resume communications.

Below you will find a brief update on the work I’ve done over the 2019-20 biennium, as well as information and resources for those struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. I know that many community members will continue to have questions and concerns about the pandemic and what’s next for Washington. To help answer those, please visit coronavirus.wa.gov or email my office and we will assist you in whatever way we can.

Thank you to those who have already reached out. I’ve received hundreds of emails from those in the 36th District, particularly around caring for immigrant, homeless, and incarcerated populations during this crisis. You have shown an abundance of empathy and concern for your more vulnerable neighbors, and I commend you. We will get through this by standing together.

COVID-19 official banner

The most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 transmission is to practice
physical distancing, avoiding contact with others unless essential.
 The Washington State Department of Health has established a call center: 1-800-525-0127.


Safe Start Washington

On May 1st, Governor Inslee announced a continued stay-at-home directive until May 31st, as well as a plan for reopening Washington. This is a phased, data-driven approach. All reopening activities depend on continued success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and meeting four capabilities, including health care system readiness, testing capacity, ability to perform contact investigations, and ability to protect high-risk populations.

Every phase will still require physical distancing and appropriate health precautions. During all phases, individuals should continue to practice social distancing, wear a face mask in public places where it’s hard to stay apart from people, and wash hands frequently.

We are currently in phase one. There will be a minimum of three weeks between each phase in order to allow one complete disease incubation period and an additional week to compile data and confirm trends. The governor and public health officials will look at numerous data sources to determine when we can move to the next phase safely. You can check out their data dashboard here and read more about the plan in its entirety here.

SafeStart


The State of the Budget

The ongoing pandemic has had a devastating effect on our state. Families are suffering as the number of people facing unemployment climbs upward on a daily basis, many small businesses that have closed may never reopen, and our children face educational setbacks as their school year was upended. We know families are making difficult decisions to make ends meet, and we as legislators are faced with making tough decisions in order to make sure our state meets its basic obligations. My hope is we will pursue a path of tapping funds from the budget stabilization account and raising new revenues to address these needs, but I’m fully aware some would prefer to make painful cuts, which I believe will only hurt our communities when they are already down.

As we adhere to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order we’re traveling less which means gas tax, ferry, and tolling revenue has plummeted. Additionally, our regressive sales-based tax system is struggling to raise the critical revenue necessary to pay for the programs and projects that help families thrive. This has already amounted to billions of dollars in lost revenue.

My understanding is that another round of federal stimulus may be approved by Congress in late May or June. Please know that your legislators are working hard to help our Congressional delegation shape and influence the federal debate, hopefully ensuring all our communities needs are considered.

We also remain prepared to meet either virtually or socially distanced in-person for a special legislative session to address state revenue shortfalls and the needs of our communities. NOTE: I’ve heard from many in our district asking for the legislature to call a special session to help address the ongoing pandemic. Thank you for reaching out and staying involved. However, please keep in mind that while the Legislature does have the constitutional authority to call ourselves in for special session, we don’t currently have joint rules, so there is no process to do so. Since we don’t have those joint rules in place right now, only the Governor can call us in for special session.

Learn more about the budget deficit projection in this recent Seattle Times article.


Food Assistance

No one should go hungry, especially our kids who may no longer have access to regular meals while schools are shut down due to COVID-19.

This is why our state, local and community partners are coming together to coordinate on the fight against hunger. Most recently, the governor announced thWA Food Fund, which will not only help keep our kids fed, but will also help food banks keep their shelves stocked. It’s a collaboration between government, nonprofits, and philanthropies. It’s a coordinated effort to get food to those in need across the state. Learn more or volunteer by visiting WAFoodFund.org.

lunch bag

Food access in King County 

When picking up meals, please remember to Stay Healthy. Stay six feet apart, wear a face mask and gloves, and wash your hands.

King County has put together a resource page for COVID-19 emergency food information, including organizations assisting with food delivery and pick up options.

Seattle Public Schools has put together a resource page for student meal supports while schools are closed.

Washington State has put together a food assistance resource page on the official Washington State COVID-19 website, which includes information on emergency food access.

Food bank locator


Tips for Accessing Unemployment Benefits 

The state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) is experiencing historically high volumes of people applying for unemployment benefits. Thousands across the state are stuck in the backlog and having issues reaching someone at the department for help. These concerns have been noted and rest assured that I am paying attention to the situation.

I recently heard from ESD about this issue, and their efforts to address the backlog:

“This week, we will launch Operation 100%. This effort is our response to this large backlog. Our goal is to ensure that everyone who is eligible for benefits receives them as quickly as possible. We will address this backlog through a series of steps, including the bulk clearing of issues that present a low risk or do not make sense during the current crisis, as well as dedicating additional resources to the review and process claims where it is necessary for an adjudicator to review it.”

Learn more about ESD’s response in this statement and video from Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine. 

In addition, here are some tips for minimizing delays and successfully applying for benefits. 

  • First, be assured that everyone who is eligible will get their money. It is not going to run outand it will be paid retroactive to the date of eligibility. 
  • Prepare: Carefully read the instructions,watch ESD’s training videos, and use ESD’s checklist to help gather all the necessary documents to avoid delays. 
  • Try the website first: If you have a problem that can only be solved over the phone, please keep trying. Thousands of people are getting through to ESD by phone every day. 
  • Timing: Apply during off-peak hours, generally 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Use a laptop or desktop if you can, and only try reloading twice in 10 minutes. If you don’t get through after that, wait two hours before trying again. 
  • Keep in touch:Subscribe to receive email updates from ESD about their COVID-19 response. 

Find answers to frequently asked questions here.  


Housing-related Resources

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant concern in our community, including economic anxiety around the ability to pay property taxes, mortgages and rents on
time as many businesses close and people experience employment loss. To ease this burden, the date to pay residential property taxes was extended from April 30 to June 1 without late fees in King County. The state has set up some resources, however if you are struggling to pay for property taxes or a mortgage on time, get in contact with your lender immediately. Don’t wait to fall behind on payments to make arrangements.

  • Statewide Washington Homeownership Hotline: 1-877-894-HOME
  • King County: propertytax.customerservice@kingcounty.gov or 206-263-2890

More property tax exemptions for seniors and veterans

This year counties are expanding the Senior Citizen and Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption based on legislation from 2019.

Under this new law, in an effort to keep seniors in their own homes, more seniors and veterans with disabilities on fixed incomes are eligible for a property tax exemption. I want to ensure eligible constituents take advantage of it.

To determine eligibility, visit King County’s Senior Exemption Portal.


My Report on the 2019-20 Biennium

Two areas of public policy in which I am heavily involved include juvenile justice and tax code reform, and I continued my work on both during the 2019-20 biennium.

Rethinking Juvenile Justice

There are significant problems with the way our justice system handles young people. Instead of pushing juveniles into the revolving door of the criminal justice system, we should hold young people accountable for their actions while still setting them up for success. It is with that goal in mind that I’ve been working on a range of juvenile justice reforms during
my tenure in the Legislature, including multiple pieces of legislation that
were successful this biennium:

  • House Bill 1742, also known as the Responsible Teen Communications Act, ensures that minors who share sexually explicit images or videos of themselves or their peers (commonly known as “sexting”) are not automatically charged with a felony sex offense.
  • Senate Bill 5290, the companion to a bill I sponsored, phases out sending young people to juvenile detention for things like running away from home or skipping school.
  • House Bill 2794, which was signed into law in March, allows juvenile records to be
    automatically sealed if the young person has served their time, completed community supervision, paid restitution owed to their victims, has no pending charges and has lived in the community crime-free for a number of years.

Balancing Washington’s Tax Code

While I’ve worked on many other issues this biennium, many of you know that what brought me to the Legislature was our state’s upside-down tax code. Washington’s tax code is THE MOST regressive in the nation. I’m currently serving as Co-Chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Tax Structure Work Group, which aims to modernize and balance our state’s tax code so that it is equitable, adequate, stable, and transparent. We are in the process of conducting a robust analysis of the code and modeling alternative structures, but the next step will be in-depth public engagement, including small, low-margin, and startup businesses, as well as low- and middle-income families. Learn more about the Tax Structure Work Group and find meeting information.

Learn more about the work I’ve been doing for our district and
the state in my recent Report on the 2019-20 Biennium.

Rep. Frame's Report on the 2019-20 Biennium

Look for this newsletter in mailboxes soon!


Remember, you can check Washington’s official response website anytime for a comprehensive list of resources. If you can’t find an answer to your question, please e-mail me and I’ll figure out what we can do.

Right now, I’m doing everything I can to help our community get answers and make sure decision makers know our concerns. Even during the legislative freeze, you can still reach out to me and I will do my best to respond to you directly.

Stay well and wash your hands!

Sincerely,

Frame Sig

Rep. Noel Frame