Join us for a 40th District Zoom Town Hall!
Please join me for a 40th Legislative District Zoom Town Hall with Senator Liz Lovelett and Representative Alex Ramel. We look forward to discussing the 2020 legislative session and sharing updates on our efforts around climate change, affordable housing and homelessness, healthcare, childcare, education, and workforce development, in addition to passing supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets.
WHEN: Saturday, April 4th, 9 am-10 am
An RSVP is required to participate in this event: RSVP via Zoom. We ask that you submit your questions in advance through the registration link or to email@example.com, though this is not required.
You will have the option to join via computer, tablet, or phone. For best results, please download the Zoom app prior to the event.
ICYMI: Community Conversation on COVID-19
Last Saturday, I hosted a Zoom Community Conversation on COVID-19 with special guests Senator Liz Lovelett, Representative Alex Ramel, Lauren Jenks with the Washington State Department of Health, and Rick Anderson with the Washington State Department of Commerce. We shared information, directed people to resources, and answered questions about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federal CARES Act: New Funding to Fight COVID-19
The latest relief package passed by Congress is a huge boost to state and local programs. It won’t fix every problem, and there may be additional actions that lawmakers in Congress—and in Olympia—need to take before this is over. For now, the new federal funding is a good first step toward winning a long war against this virus.
Here’s the estimated breakdown of funding coming to Washington state:
- State Coronavirus Relief Fund—$1.624 billion for state government and $1.329 billion for local governments for a total of $2.953 billion, which goes directly to our state and local public health systems, personal protective equipment, human services, and more;
- Child Care Development Block Grant—$58.2 million toward helping childcare providers during this unprecedented crisis;
- Community Services Block Grant—$11.8 million for local community-based organizations providing social services and emergency assistance to those with the highest need;
- Low-income heating assistance program—$11.1 million to offer help to those who need assistance paying their utility bills; and
- Education Stabilization Fund—$56.6 million, along with $216.9 million for elementary and secondary education to help schools purchase technology to support online learning, plan and coordinate school closures, and other emergency needs due to COVID-19.
Help for workers and businesses
This week I hosted a community conversation on the economic impacts of COVID-19. I was pleased to have Rep. Springer, Sen. Lovelett, Rep. Ramel, the Department of Commerce, the Employment Security Department, local ports, chambers, economic development leaders, and local elected officials on the call. We discussed the many challenges our local businesses and employees are facing and the overall impacts of COVID-19 on our local economy. Below are some additional resources that may be helpful.
The state unemployment insurance system has become more flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the biggest things to know about:
- More people are eligible for assistance today, including the self-employed, part-time workers and people in the gig economy — please check the state unemployment page for workers and sign up for alerts for the latest news;
- Benefits will increase by $600 per week through the end of July;
- An additional 13 weeks of eligibility are added; and
- Job search requirements are relaxed and now optional, as the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order makes it hard for people to look for work.
For businesses, there are also changes to help get through this crisis:
- Reduced tax impacts for businesses who utilize state unemployment insurance programs;
- Relaxed penalties and fees for employers and workers who miss key deadlines due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- SharedWork allows businesses to reduce worker hours without having to lay them off, with the option of reducing hours by 10 percent to 50 percent while having Unemployment Insurance provide partial wage replacement for those reduced hours.
For small businesses, the Small Business Administration offers small business guidance and loan assistance online on the SBA website for COVID-19 response. There are also several programs and other relief options that can help during this difficult time:
- The Paycheck Protection Program: This provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance: A loan advance that provides up to $10,000 in economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties.
Special Enrollment Period for Washington Healthplanfinder Extended to May 8
Responding to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is giving families more time to find the right plan for them if they find themselves suddenly uninsured due to a change in status, such as losing a job that provided health insurance coverage. Originally this special enrollment period was set to end on April 8, but is now extended another month. If you or a loved one is in sudden need of coverage, please visit WaHealthPlanFinder.org.
Constituent Corner: Taxes
The Washington Department of Revenue announced as a part of Business Relief During COVID-19 Pandemic it will, upon request, provide extensions for filing and payment of taxes due during the state of emergency. Filing and payment extensions will be granted to businesses for business and occupation (B&O) taxes and real estate excise taxes. More information here: https://dor.wa.gov/about/business-relief-during-covid-19-pandemic.
Many of you have inquired about the ability to delay the April payment of property taxes for people/businesses impacted by COVID-19. The Governor’s executive order (EO) related to taxes did not cover property taxes, however, current law allows county treasurers to authorize a delay in property tax payments at the request of a property owner.
County treasurers do not have authority on their own to waive interest, from late/delayed property tax payments. They only have the power to extend due dates and waive penalties. The county treasurers would need to seek an executive order from the Governor to be able to waive interest.
The following includes information from the Treasurer’s Offices of our local counties on how to seek help with your property taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Whatcom County: Whatcom County is extending the first half property tax due date until June 1 for individual and commercial taxpayers that pay their property taxes themselves. Participants of the County Treasurer’s Autopay program shall have their enrolled accounts debited on June 1. Mortgage companies, banks, and other financial institution and intermediaries that pay property taxes on behalf of their lending or leasing customers will be expected to pay those property taxes by April 30. Individual taxpayers that pay their property taxes on or before June 1 will not be charged any additional interest.
The County Treasurer also announced the availability of payment plans for property taxes on small businesses and primary residences where extraordinary circumstances exist. Please contact the Whatcom County Treasurer’s Office at 360-778-5160 for more information.
Skagit County: If you are a resident of Skagit County and the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your ability to pay your property taxes, please note that the Treasurer’s Office is working to develop a relief program to forgive penalties and interest for those who experience financial hardship. These will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Contact the Skagit County Treasurer’s Office (360-416-1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org) after April 10 for more details.
San Juan County: If you are a resident of San Juan County and the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your ability to pay your property taxes, please contact the Treasurer’s Office at 360-378-2171 or email@example.com, as they are addressing needs on a case by case basis.
Thank you all for taking to the time to read this week’s Fantastic Friday, and for taking an interest in our progress at the House of Representatives.
Please feel free to reach out to me using the information below, with any questions, inquiries, or concerns you may have.
I am here for you!
All best wishes,
Rep. Debra Lekanoff