Dear friends and neighbors,
Thank you to everyone who is staying home and practicing social distancing to protect vulnerable people, support our healthcare workers and the healthcare system. We believe it is making a difference by helping to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow the spread of this infectious disease. However, we are not out of the woods yet.
Thank you for reaching out with questions and concerns. We are working to find answers and hope this newsletter will provide some information you can use. There are different challenges for each of us, whether you have lost a job, are in healthcare, are teaching your kids at home, or are a struggling small business trying to keep your head above water – let us know what you are experiencing and if we can be of service. To those who are sick or who have lost loved ones –our hearts are with you.
We have been hearing great stories in our community about people providing food to each other, going shopping for elderly neighbors, and about the new ways we are learning to study, work, exercise and connect with loved ones, all while keeping safe. Many businesses and individuals have prepared or donated meals to hospital workers and are also donating protective gear, like masks, to those on the healthcare frontlines. These are examples of our community showing unity in crisis and building resilience that will help us all get through this.
We are grateful to the healthcare professionals working long hours; the public health and scientific leaders who provide the most current information; the nonprofits that continue offering services; and the federal, state and local leaders working in a collaborative and bipartisan manner during this crisis. Most of all, we are grateful to everyone who is staying home, practicing social distancing and protecting our community. We look forward to the day when this virus is defeated so we can recover, rebuild our economy and look to the future. Until then, please stay healthy and safe.
Both of us, as well as our legislative assistants, are working from home, but that doesn’t mean we’re not reachable. In fact, the easiest way to contact us right now is via e-mail, so drop us a line and let us know how you and your family are doing.
This situation is hard for everybody, but we’re all in it together. We’ll get through this and come out more resilient on the other side.
Thank you for all you do,
State steps up response
As the legislative session began to unwind, it became clear that we would need a significant response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Washington state. We passed legislation transferring $200 million from the state’s Budget Stabilization Account. $175 million is slated for helping to slow the spread of the virus and for treatment of those infected. The remaining $25 million is to assist businesses with unemployment impacts.
The governor signed the COVID-19 response package of bills on March 17. Read about it here.
Communities across the state are struggling, and our health care providers are also finding it difficult to serve an increasingly growing population requiring care. This is particularly true as they realize that they are running out of supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and test kits.
Stay Home, Stay Healthy
What our state, the nation, and the world are going through is unprecedented. We must minimize the impact of COVID-19 as much as possible and the only known way to do so effectively is to avoid proximity and contact with others.
The order includes a ban on all gatherings, and closures of many businesses, unless they are essential to the healthy functioning of the state. If you don’t know or are unsure of whether your job or business is essential, check out the list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” that will ensure continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. To clarify status or to petition to be added to the list, please email: Business@mil.wa.gov
It will be hard, but we believe this decision is essential to control the virus and keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.
We realize that hunkering down to prevent contagion is leaving much of our workforce out of a job, which is particularly hard for the many people in our state who are self-employed and don’t qualify for regular unemployment insurance. That’s why we support this letter sent to our congressional delegation yesterday requesting that the federal government unlock disaster unemployment assistance for the thousands of independent contractors in Washington who are losing work due to the coronavirus pandemic
Support for workers and businesses
The governor’s bold move to close nonessential businesses will help slow down the spread of coronavirus, but workers and business owners are looking for answers as they wonder how they will get their families through this necessary shutdown.
State agencies have adopted emergency rules and developed comprehensive websites to help relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation and quarantine for workers and businesses. Please keep in mind that the content in the links below will likely be updated as this situation continues unfolding, so check these sites often for the latest information.
- The Employment Security Department has resources for workers on paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, unemployment benefits, and more. Check out this easy reference chart on scenarios and benefits.
- The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has information available on mortgage payments, rent payments, student loan deferments, short term and emergency loans, utility payments, and more.
- The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has a site set up to help with insurance questions, including a frequently asked questions page.
- The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period for individuals without insurance which will run through April 8th, 2020.
Support for parents and students during school closures
Schools are the cornerstones of our community. On March 13, Governor Jay Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal directed all schools statewide to close until April 24. School closures are having a serious impact on Washington’s families, so here are some resources to help your family adapt:
Feeding families during the COVID-19 crisis
While most restaurants remain closed during this crisis, here are some ways to continue accessing safe and healthy food, and extra help is available for families that need support getting food on the table:
- Order takeout and delivery. Even though most restaurants are currently closed, you can still support small businesses by ordering takeout and delivery.
- Assistance with buying food is available. If the COVID-19 crisis is creating extra strain on your household budget, you can apply for assistance through various state programs.
- Free school meals. Some school districts are stepping up to continue providing free school breakfasts and lunches. Check with your local school district to see if they are offering free meals for kids.
- Food banks remain open. Food banks continue providing assistance to families and are instituting increased social distancing and hygiene practices.
- Grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores are open. Make lists to minimize the number of trips and click on the image below for a message from the Departments of Health and Commerce to keep in mind the next time you head to the store. Don’t forget to wash your hands as soon as you get home.
- Cooking at home. For those cooking at home, handle food with the same care that you usually would. Wash your hands and only handle food when healthy. People who are coughing, feverish, short of breath, or otherwise sick should stay out of the kitchen.
Social distancing: a how to guide
Social distancing is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, as the virus is transferred from person to person. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you could be a carrier and should practice social distancing.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER ABOUT SOCIAL DISTANCING IS TO STAY SIX FEET APART FROM OTHERS WHEN YOU’RE AT A PUBLIC PLACE, THE BANK OR THE STORE.
- Stay home unless you have to go grocery shopping, to a pharmacy, or a medical appointment. Remember there is a statewide emergency ban on gatherings, including social, spiritual, and recreational.
- It’s okay to get fresh air, walk the dog, garden or ride your bike – but maintain six feet of space from other individuals while you’re out and about.
- Eliminate or reschedule nonessential trips. Use telecommute options and avoid public transportation as much as possible.
- Minimize contact with others, especially visits with people over 60. Seniors and people with compromised immune systems should stay home.
- Practice social distancing, not social isolation. Use technology to stay virtually connected with loved ones.
- Know the signs of stress, depression and anxiety, and consider these CDC recommendations to minimize negative impacts from a lack of human interaction.
- There is constant media coverage on COVID-19 as well as misinformation all over social media. Avoid overloading on negativity by consuming information from reliable sources and know it’s okay to disconnect from time to time.
- Find things to do that relieve stress and don’t involve screen time: books (or audiobooks), creative hobbies, indoor physical activities including regular stretching.
- Reach out to a professional if you need help. You don’t have to go through it alone.
More online resources
This is a difficult and uncertain time for all of us, so it’s good to know where to find help. Here are a few one-stop-shop web portals that compile current information and a wide array of resources: