As the coronavirus situation continues to rapidly unfold, our state agencies and the governor’s office continue updating and increasing resources to help Washingtonians get through these difficult times.
We believe it is important that you get this information as fast as we are receiving it, which is why we are sending you another COVID-19 update so soon after our last one.
We hope you find it useful.
New Resources for Small Businesses
Gov. Jay Inslee announced additional steps to help small businesses mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19:
- The Working Washington Small Business Grant, through the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund and administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce with the help of county economic development organizations. The grants will provide up to $10,000 for small businesses under 10 employees. Businesses can use this money to pay for rent, utility bills, supplies, inventory and other operating expenses. To apply for an emergency grant, visit coronavirus.wa.gov.
- Business resiliency assistance, through the Washington State Department of Commerce by partnering with organizations that serve economically disadvantaged communities across the state.
- Forgivable loans, through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Small businesses, non-profits, independent contractors or self-employed individuals in need of financial help may be eligible for a forgivable loan from the SBA. Beginning last Friday, local banks began taking SBA applications and issuing forgivable loans. For more information go to sba.gov.
News from ESD
The Employment Security Department (ESD) has received an unprecedented flood of applications for assistance and extremely high numbers of phone calls and emails. They are doing the best they can to meet this need by hiring additional staff, expanding service hours and upgrading their technology.
Many people also have questions about the recent federal stimulus package and the enhancements to eligibility and available benefits for individuals. To address your questions and to find out more information, please do not call their toll-free numbers first. Instead please:
IMPORTANT: ESD officials tell us that if a person’s issue can only be resolved by speaking to an agent, they should continue calling, even if they must do so repeatedly, and that thousands of individuals are getting through by phone every day. Also, they assured us that regardless of when a person gets through, they will receive retroactive payments back to their eligibility date.
For the week ending March 28th, ESD received more than 180,000 new claims for unemployment insurance (that’s more than seven times the peak week in the 2008/2009 recession). In addition to the initial claims for unemployment insurance, ESD processed more than 350,000 total weekly claims, resulting in over $42,000,000 flowing to Washington households that week. In total, since March 16, ESD has put more than $67,000,000 into people’s pockets and into the economy. To dig deeper into these figures to better understand the county by county or industry sector breakdowns, go to the ESD’s labor market website.
These are some of the things the ESD is doing to reduce flow and increase capacity:
The ESD website environment has remained stable and is servicing thousands of users every day. 95 percent of applications are coming through the website – and, once someone is approved, since ESD waived the waiting week, it’s only taking 7-10 days for people to get their weekly benefit.
Secure Access Washington ID authentication fix
Users with multiple accounts, or with accounts set up on old email addresses they can no longer access, would get locked out of the system and required to call to reset their information. Since getting through over the phone is not easy under current conditions, ESD rolled out a fix to the Secure Access Washington identification authentication system. This fix will make a significant difference for a number of people trying to access the system.
Federal program implementation
The ESD is preparing for the implementation of the federal stimulus programs included in the CARES act by upgrading their technology systems so that on April 18, they can begin accepting applications for the three main elements of the new law:
All of these benefits will be retroactively paid from the time people lost their jobs or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act. So, once approved, they will receive a lump sum payment of all benefits that are owed to them at that point. They will then be able to file weekly claims for benefits moving forward.
Independent contractors, self-employed & fewer than 680 hours
These benefits will expand support for individuals who typically do not qualify for unemployment insurance, such as those who are self-employed, independent contractors and those without enough hours in the previous year. This will make a tremendous difference for many families in our state. The best course of action for those not currently eligible for Unemployment Insurance, is to go to the ESD website and sign up for COVID action alerts. This will be the fastest way to get the most up-to-date information about when and how they can access their benefits.
Family First Act
The ESD will soon be posting information, in partnership with Labor & Industries and Commerce, on these new programs such as Paid Sick Leave, Paid Family and Medical Leave, as well as the Paycheck Protection SBA Loan Program and the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan SBA Loan Program. This will be done through the Joint Information Center with materials and information published on the consolidated website: coronavirus.wa.gov
State legislators are holding virtual meetings frequently to discuss new developments as well as ideas to help our communities get through this very difficult period. We realize that what’s being done so far is not enough, but we are actively seeking creative ways to help more people in more ways.
For example, we’re working with ESD, Governor Inslee’s office, community leaders, property tax assessors, insurance companies and banks to get all kinds of relief possible to our residents and the businesses that serve all of us.
We’ve heard from some of you wondering if we’ll be heading back to Olympia for a special session. As of right now, we have not been informed of any plans to that effect. As you know, it is up to the governor to convene a special session, but if he deems it necessary, we, and all of our colleagues, are ready to comply.
Please know that we are here to listen and connect you with resources, so don’t hesitate to ask.
We hope you and your families are staying healthy.