Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In recent weeks, Governor Inslee signed into law some key bills the Legislature passed swiftly early this session. In addition, the governor recently made announcements on school re-openings, updates on vaccine rollout and our state’s response to COVID-19, including moving to Phase 3.
Roadmap to Recovery: Moving to Phase 3
Last week, Governor Inslee announced multiple updates to the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery phased reopening plan. Beginning next Monday, March 22, all counties across the state will advance from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of the reopening plan, and an evaluation of counties will take place every three weeks beginning Monday, April 12. This announcement is a major win for our small business owners and our communities. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, but please continue to stay vigilant, social distance, and most of all, mask up. Read more about what is allowed in Phase 3.
More Tiers Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine
As of this week, everyone in 1B Tier 2 of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine prioritization plan is eligible for their vaccine. This includes workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters and law enforcement, among others. Tier 2 also includes people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high-risk. In case you missed it: teachers and childcare providers are also now eligible for vaccines. For more information, please see the Department of Health’s statement in English or Spanish.
Starting March 31, people with two or more comorbidities, people 60-64, and workers in restaurants, food service, manufacturing and construction are eligible. Starting May 1, all adults will be eligible to be vaccinated. Hope is upon us.
COVID-19 Vaccine Resources
- Find your nearest COVID-19 vaccination site
- Check whether you are eligible for the vaccine (Additional Languages)
- Schedule an appointment at Seattle’s Lumen Field
- High-Volume Vaccine Sites in King County (Kent and Auburn)
- Visual Guide to Making Vaccination Appointments
Governor Inslee’s “Return to School” order
Last week, Gov. Inslee also announced an executive order that requires all public K–12 schools in Washington to provide each student with the opportunity to learn in-person at their school, for no fewer than two days per week, by April 19, 2021. This is critical for the mental and behavioral health of children and youth in Washington.
Please note that this proclamation does not require you to send your students back to in-person instruction. It allows parents to continue to choose remote learning. This proclamation only addresses what opportunities school districts are required to provide to families. Learn more in this FAQ about the order, including its implementation and implications.
Bills Signed by the Governor
To help our residents and businesses cope with and recover from this pandemic, the legislature passed some bills in record time. Just recently, Governor Inslee signed those bills into law.
- The first bill the governor signed this year was Senate Bill 5061, a crucial unemployment insurance relief bill for Washington businesses that also helps the lowest-wage, hardest-hit workers by raising their minimum benefit. Click here for information on how the bill will better prepare our state for the next health emergency, as well as rebuild Washington’s Unemployment Insurance trust fund.
- House Bill 1367 and House Bill 1368 distributed $2.2 billion in federal funds to provide assistance to those deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds are directed into critical areas to help families and businesses through small business grants, health care and public health, housing and food assistance, and K-12 schools and child care.
- House Bill 1095 ensures state and federal assistance funds are not taxed, keeping the relief grant money where it needs to be – in the local, small businesses across Washington.
These early actions have helped our communities get by as we await further funding from the federal government (see below), and as our budget team develops a balanced budget for Washington state that offers real solutions for a sustainable recovery, without hurting the very communities most severely affected by the pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan Passes Congress
Congress recently passed The American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that will bolster the nation’s public health response, mount a national vaccination program, and provide direct relief to workers, families, and communities across the country. Overall, the total package includes:
- $20 billion+ to establish a national vaccination program to improve and accelerate vaccine administration and distribution.
- Direct payment of $1,400 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $2,800 for married couples making up to $150,000 per year, including checks for mixed-status households.
- Maintaining a $300 per week increase in federal unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021 to help unemployed Washingtonians pay bills and put food on the table.
- $39 billion in grant funding to help child care providers safely keep doors open and ensure working families can afford child care.
- Nearly $130 billion in grant funding to help K-12 schools nationwide safely reopen.
- $7.6 billion to bridge the digital divide in communities nationwide.
Washington state will receive more than $4 billion of this one-time funding in order to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its economic impacts.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me this session with your questions, concerns, or comments. We will get through these hardest of times together.
Rep. Tana Senn