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:
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.
That’s why all four legislative caucuses supported Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent order to stay healthy by staying at home.
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.
- The Employment Security Department has information on what resources are available to help businesses keep employees, and information about tax filing lenience.
- Governor Inslee’s website has a list of resources on:
- How to apply for federal Small Business Administration loans.
- How to request tax filing extensions or penalty waivers from the Dept. of Revenue.
- Where to go for support from the Dept. of Commerce Export Assistance Team.
- The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has a page on business insurance information, including one answering questions on event cancellation insurance.
Buy, don’t hoard
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.
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.
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:
OSPI will continue to be your best resource for updated information. Check their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
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:
Grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores remain open. Make lists to minimize the number of trips to the store and remember that as long as we only buy what we need, instead of stockpiling, our supply chain will remain strong. Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
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 at https://www.washingtonconnection.org/home/.
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 to provide assistance to families and are instituting increased social distancing and hygiene practices.
Cooking at home. For those cooking at home, handle food with the same care that you usually would. Wash your hands. 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.
SIX FEET SAVES LIVES!
Social distancing means:
- Stay home unless pursuing an essential activity, like grocery shopping, going to a pharmacy, or medical appointments.
- 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 nonessential trips outside the home. Use telecommute options and avoid public transportation as much as possible.
- Minimize contact with people, especially nonessential travel and visits with people over the age of 60. Seniors and people with compromised immune systems should stay home.
- Reschedule nonessential travel.
- There is a current statewide emergency ban on gatherings, including social, spiritual, and recreational gatherings.
- Stay in touch with loved ones remotely through the phone, video calls, e-mail and social media platforms.
Social distancing is not social isolation
Stress and lack of human interaction can have negative impacts on our behavioral health. Here are some recommendations and resources to stay mentally healthy over the next few weeks:
- Know the signs of stress, depression and anxiety, and learn how to manage those symptoms.
- Take care of your physical health. Eat healthy, nutritious foods, and go for walks outside – just maintain the six-feet social distancing rule.
- Practice social distancing, not social isolation. Use technology to stay virtually connected with loved ones.
- If you’re working from home or you’re helping your kids with their lessons while schools are closed, create and stick to regular schedules and routines.
- There is constant media coverage on COVID-19. You can avoid overloading on coronavirus negativity by consuming only information from reliable official resources and know it’s okay to disconnect from time to time.
- Find things to do that relieve stress and don’t involve screen time: read a book or listen to an audio book, pick up old creative hobbies or learn new ones, practice indoor physical activities including regular stretching.
- Reach out to a professional if you need help. You don’t have to go through it all alone.
- Remember, COVID-19 won’t last forever. This too shall pass.
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.