Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Major announcements regarding vaccine distribution have come out recently and I want to make sure you heard the news. Our teachers and child care providers are approved for vaccinations immediately with additional people becoming eligible later this month. The Washington State Department of Health is seeking clarification from the federal government to ensure that the roll-out of this change comes with sufficient supply and equitable access. For more information, please see the Department of Health’s statement in English or Spanish.
If you’re an educator or licensed child care worker and you have a healthcare provider, they will contact you when they have enough vaccine to set up an appointment. You can also find a vaccine provider using the state Department of Health’s Vaccine Locator. And if you need translation assistance or can’t get online, call the state COVID-19 Assistance Hotline at 1-800-525-0127.
Our healthcare providers are telling us that the vaccine supply from the federal government is low and appointments fill up fast, but more vaccine doses are on their way. We’ve come a long way, with 1.7 million Washingtonians having received at least one dose and increased progress towards our goal of 45,000 vaccines administered each day. We owe thanks to the healthcare workers who are working hard to vaccinate people quickly!
We also passed a sobering milestone recently – over 5,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in our state. My thoughts are with the families who have lost their grandmas and grandpas, parents, sisters, brothers and cousins.
This milestone is also an important reminder to remain vigilant in our fight against COVID-19. New variants are much more transmissible and can strain our healthcare system further. We will still save lives by masking up, washing our hands and keeping our physical distance. We can carry the legacy of the lives lost and help our community and economy recover more quickly when we do it together.
Supporting our long-term care staff and facilities
Washington state has the second-best system of long-term services and supports, according to the AARP. The legislature faces the constant challenge to ensure that reimbursement rates for nursing facilities keep up with the cost of providing care, and this has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To address this challenge, the Governor’s proposed budget offered a rate increase to cover those facility costs and moving rate reviews from a biennial to an annual schedule to reflect more accurately the cost of providing care. In the House we considered legislation that would also add inflationary adjustments and changes to the Medicaid rate methodology, and although that bill did not pass, the House could still incorporate that provision in the House budget that comes out later in March.
It’s important that we continue to be thoughtful in our investments in long-term care, maintaining our workforce to meet the needs of our long-term care facilities. I’ll let you know what changes are proposed in the House budget and what is ultimately decided in the final budget approved by the Legislature.
Preparing for zero-emission electric cars and trucks
By all accounts, the days of the internal combustion engine are numbered. But an electric car without a convenient charging station is like a turtle on its back, and a few days ago the House passed HB 1287, legislation designed to make sure there’s plenty of juice, and lots of places to get it, when the zero-emission movement hits critical mass in Washington. With more than a two-to-one margin, a bipartisan majority agreed to direct electric utilities and state transportation officials to do what it takes now to prepare for a future that is much closer than many of us might think.
If the bill becomes law, it will produce detailed mapping from the Department of Transportation on where vehicle charging stations currently are, and the locations and numbers that will be needed as the green vehicle revolution really takes off. It will tell utilities to plan now for how they’ll meet the enormous demand when hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions of zero-emission vehicles are rolling on Washington’s roads.
When HB 1287 received a public hearing in the House, General Motors announced that day that they will stop producing internal-combustion engines by 2035. They won’t be the only manufacturer to make this decision, and Washington state will be ready.
Join Us: Virtual Town Hall
Please join Sen. Manka Dhingra, Rep. Larry Springer and me for our first ever 45th District Virtual Town Hall. The town hall will be streamed live on the Senate Democratic Caucus’ Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. You can submit questions in advance at surveymonkey.com/r/45thLDTownHall.
What: 45th Legislative District Virtual Town Hall
When: Wednesday, March 17 at 7:00 PM
Please note, you do not need a Facebook or Twitter account to view the livestream and the video will be saved on YouTube.
As always, please reach out if you have questions, comments, or ideas.
All best wishes,
Representative, 45th District
Washington State Legislature