Monthly Archives: March 2020

E-News: Resources for people affected by the coronavirus

March 30th, 2020|

Dear Neighbor,

During this time of hardships, it is so important for us to come together as a community and look out for one another. And I’m hearing so many stories of friends and family members and neighbors doing just that—while keeping a safe six feet apart!

With that in mind, I would like to send you a list of some resources that might be helpful to you or people you know. And remember, the latest information about the coronavirus pandemic and what we can all be doing to keep safe and healthy will always be at coronavirus.wa.gov.

Medical resources

The Department of Health’s coronavirus resource page has answers to questions about your health or the health of a family member. Here you can find information on testing, tips to stay healthy and much more.

You can also call the DOH coronavirus hotline at 1-800-525-0127 (press #) or email them at doh.information@doh.wa.gov.

Educational resources 

Your kids are home with time on their hands. What to do?

Fortunately, our state school superintendent has a fantastic list of resources on their website.

From virtual tours of historical sites and museums to interactive math puzzles—whatever your children are interested in and would be learning in school, you can find it on their site.

Childcare resources

Parents should try to keep their children home, but this isn’t always possible, especially for moms and dads on the front line of the outbreak.

For those parents that need childcare, and for childcare providers that are open during this crisis, here are some guidelines to help keep your facility clean and, most importantly, the kids in your care healthy.

The Department of Children, Youth & Families also has information on child care you can find here.

Resources for businesses

If you’re a small business owner who has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the state has resources to help. Earlier this month, the Legislature passed $200 million funding for the coronavirus response, with $25 million allocated directly to help businesses that have been financially impacted.

The state Department of Employment Security provides help for workers whose hours are cut and businesses worried about having to lay off their employees.
The state Department of Revenue can provide tax deferrals.
The federal Small Business Administration has opened applications for low interest U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

You can find more information here. You can find this information and more at the state coronavirus response website linked to at the start of this newsletter. It is critical that our small businesses, the backbone of our community, survive this time and come out strong on the other side.

How you can help

This is a tumultuous and unpredictable time, and many of you have reached out asking what you can do to help beyond staying home and practicing social distancing.

This link has a variety of ways you can help those fighting the spread of the coronavirus. Here you can find a list of items the state needs to aid in the fight. You can also find ways to donate blood, volunteer your time and help support small businesses.

Stay Home, Stay Healthy

On Monday evening March 23, Governor Inslee signed a two-week “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation, similar to orders you may have heard about in other states. This decision is essential to our ability to control the virus and prevent the number of cases from overwhelming our healthcare system. For reference, here’s a reminder of what the order means:

Stay Home, Stay Healthy order

Sincerely yours,

Manka Dhingra

  • Permalink Gallery

    Washington Senate Narrowly Passes Gun Violence Prevention Bill Sponsored by Indian American State Senator Manka Dhingra

Washington Senate Narrowly Passes Gun Violence Prevention Bill Sponsored by Indian American State Senator Manka Dhingra

March 25th, 2020|

From India-West

On a narrow 25-24 vote, the Washington state Senate March 10 passed a seminal gun violence prevention bill, sponsored by Indian American state Senator Manka Dhingra.

“The bill takes a data-centered approach to addressing the epidemic of gun violence,” Dhingra, the first Indian American to be elected to the Washington state Legislature, told India-West. She noted that the bill was passed on a partisan vote: Democrats, who control the Legislature, voted for the bill, while Republicans did not. Dhingra said similar partisanship has stalled comprehensive gun control legislation in state legislatures across the nation and at the federal level.

Dhingra also serves as deputy prosecuting attorney for Kings County, Washington, and said the bill was born out of her experience at the prosecutor’s office. Every year, 155 King County residents die from gunshots and another 150 are hospitalized.

“We have to have a public health approach to addressing gun violence,” she stated, noting that the Centers for Disease Control is currently banned from collecting data on gun violence and conducting research on the issue.

The bill, SB 6288, passed the Washington state House March 5 on a 53-44 vote. It must now be signed by the president of the state Senate, and the Speaker of the state House before it moves on to Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for approval. Dhingra said the governor has expressed his support for the measure.

Dhingra’s bill would establish the Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, which would work with law enforcement agencies and others to collect and centralize data on firearm violence, including suicide. The office would make the data available for public health research.

Additionally, the new office would administer the Washington Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program, funding initiatives that seek to end the epidemic of gun violence.

One of the initiatives the new office would fund is Choose 180, a restorative justice program designed to help young offenders re-direct themselves away from a life of criminal activity. The program diverts young people away from incarceration; they are typically paired with an older mentor, often someone who has been through the criminal justice system. Volunteers also help teen offenders talk about the struggles they have experienced in their lives which may have led them to criminal behavior.

Dhingra also hopes to fund programs that allow law enforcement to engage with communities of color to provide mentor-ship.

The bill would also create an initiative aiming to address PTSD for victims of violence and also for those who have observed it. These mental health treatment measures were developed by Washington state Senator David Frockt, a Democrat, who proposed the treatment initiative in a bill earlier this year, which did not pass the state Senate.

“The effects of firearm violence on survivors’ mental health can be devastating and long-lasting. We as a state, as a community, need to be doing all that we can to help survivors deal with the trauma, and that’s what this legislation will do,” said Frockt, in a statement released by Dhingra’s office.

“In the Legislature, we have been taking meaningful steps to transform our criminal justice system from a crisis response model to an early intervention and prevention model,” Dhingra said in the statement. “This bill is an important addition to that work.”

By Sunita Sohrabji

E-News: Coronavirus – state action to help

March 12th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

The Legislature is taking this health crisis extremely seriously. We have now appropriated $200 million to fund our state’s response, including monitoring, testing and support for local health departments.

We have also acted to

  • ensure that people receiving unemployment insurance can continue to do so even if they can’t meet the work search requirement due to quarantine
  • support businesses that rehire employees who had to go on unemployment insurance because of the coronavirus emergency
  • reimburse nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response
  • allow school employees to maintain health insurance eligibility for the rest of the school year even if they come up short of required work hours because of the coronavirus state of emergency

The federal government has passed an $8.3 billion coronavirus response plan. Of that, $11.2 million came immediately came to Washington state for public health responses. Our congressional leaders are hard at work negotiating a supplemental bill that is intended to include additional Medicaid funding, housing support, and SNAP benefits.

To minimize public health risk, Governor Inslee has prohibited most large events of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and Public Health — Seattle & King County has issued health and safety guidelines that must be followed by the organizers of smaller public gatherings.

State agencies have announced measures to help people and businesses whose lives are disrupted. The governor’s office has assembled a central list of resources here. Below are some of the most important changes that can help you.

Worker and employer assistance

  • If an employer temporarily shuts down operations because of coronavirus, workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits and the employer may receive relief of benefit costs.
  • If workers are exposed to coronavirus and asked to isolate or quarantine by a doctor or health official, they may receive unemployment benefits while they are temporarily away from work. A bill passed recently by the Legislature waives the requirement that people in this situation must be actively searching for work.

Health care coverage 

  • In response to the spread of coronavirus, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period for health insurance through April 8. You can call 1-855-923-4633 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Insurance assistance 

  • The Insurance Commissioner has required all insurance plans to cover coronavirus tests with no cost-sharing and no prior authorization requirement for people who meet the CDC criteria for testing.
  • He has also required insurance plans to allow enrollees to refill their prescriptions early one time in order to maintain an adequate supply.

School updates

The governor has ordered all King County public and private schools to close through April 26th. You can find further information from the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction here.

Protect your health and your loved ones

Remember, if someone you know has a fever and non-acute respiratory distress, they should call their doctor. Symptoms to watch for are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The best preparations are to prevent infection with simple yet effective actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (singing happy birthday twice).
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, sleeve or tissue (not your hands).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Bump elbows with friends rather than giving hugs or handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Use hand sanitizers when unable to wash your hands.

If you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the King County coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 or the Washington State Department of Health call center at 1-800-525-0127.

Sincerely yours,

Senate passes nation’s first statewide Office of Equity

March 8th, 2020|

From the Suburban Times

On Wednesday, March 5, the Washington state Senate passed House Bill 1783 to reduce systemic disparities in Washington state government. The bill would establish the nation’s first statewide Office of Equity within the Governor’s Office.

“This is about bringing equality for all to every community in Washington,” said Rep. Mia Gregerson (D-SeaTac), who sponsored the legislation. “Inequities impacting historically marginalized people run deep and they come at far too great a social and economic cost.”

While many state agencies in Washington are engaged in methods to reduce systemic inequities, those efforts are not currently coordinated at the state level. This leaves agencies to individually face the same challenges in developing, sharing, and implementing resources to address this issue.

The Office of Equity would streamline this process by recommending best practices and by providing assistance for implementation and training.

“Disparities in Black and African American communities exist due to the way systems were formed,” said Rep. Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland). “The vote today for the Office of Equity will help ensure we are truly addressing the needs of ALL Washingtonians as we begin to pave new roads to the ‘American Dream.’”

Last year, Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), Gregerson and Morgan were appointed to the Office of Equity Task Force, which was formed following the conclusion of the 2019 legislative session. The task force, established by the Governor’s Interagency Coordinating Council on Health Disparities, was directed to create a proposal for the Office of Equity. The task force met several times throughout the interim in communities across the state and invited the public for opportunities to comment and participate.

“We need an Office of Equity to take a systematic approach across our state government to promote access to equitable opportunities and resources that reduce disparities, including racial and ethnic disparities, and improve outcomes statewide,” said Dhingra, who sponsored companion legislation in the Senate.

“The creation of an Office of Equity will help us ensure that all state agencies in Washington continually evaluate their policies and practices to address gaps in services and opportunities,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), who co-sponsored the Senate companion bill. “This is a big step toward eliminating disparities so zip codes or race are no longer determinants for economic opportunity and lifespan.”

The bill passed 28-21. It will now return to the House to reconcile amendments before arriving at the Governor’s desk for his signature.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Bill requiring comprehensive sex ed in schools passes state Senate, awaits governor’s signature

Bill requiring comprehensive sex ed in schools passes state Senate, awaits governor’s signature

March 7th, 2020|

From the Seattle Times and Tacoma News Tribune

A controversial bill to require Washington’s 295 school districts to teach comprehensive sexual health education in grades K-12 is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

By a 27-21 vote on Saturday, the state Senate agreed with House amendments to SB 5395. The roll call followed a moving floor speech by Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent.

The bill would be phased in over two years, with the mandate to teach all students in grades six through 12 beginning with the 2021-2022 school year and to all students a year later.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said the bill requires curriculum that is “age-appropriate” and will teach older students about affirmative consent — an explicit, informed and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual act.

“Instead of constantly reacting to violence against women, we now actually will be in a position where we are preventing future victimization and preventing future violence,” she said.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, said he reviewed sex education material that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has approved for fifth-grade students. O’Ban said it was too explicit.

“Who will decide what is age-appropriate, where there is clearly going to be differences in opinion? Should that be a government-mandated decision from OSPI or should that be based upon the values of parents as reflected in their school boards and schools? We’ve always believed that the best government is the one that is local,” he said.

When Das stood to speak in favor of the bill, she said she had been largely silent on the sex education topic. “They say that you should speak up, even if your voice is shaking,” she added.

Das said male babysitters sexually abused her when she was 4 and 8 years old. At age 16, a relative tried to abuse her, she said.

“Remember, as I’ve told you over and over again, my family came here from India with $6. And I think people thought they could take advantage of my family in any way they chose to do that. I wish I had this education in school. I wish someone taught me about consent. I wish someone told me that ‘no meant no.’ I know that I am not alone.

“We have watched our friends and family members post on social media that they are survivors and they have ‘#MeToo’ stories. This is the first time I have chosen to publicly share mine and I will tell you what: I am not alone. My story sadly is not unique,” Das said.

Das said the bill would “have made a difference for this little girl.” She said she hoped it would change the the life of “just one little kid.”

Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, expressed his “sincere sympathy” to Das.

His voice cracking with emotion, Wagoner said: “I think I speak for everybody here that that shouldn’t happen to anybody and it is brave of her to say it to all of us.”

Wagoner voted to not approve the amendments made by the House, but he said he was not opposed to the bill “in totality.”

“I’ve always said what is important is how we implement it. If we respect the local control, if we respect our school boards and we respect the parents who vote our school boards to those positions, I’m fine with it. It may work great for some communities.

“To the age-appropriateness, I saw some of the same material that Senator O’Ban was speaking about. And I can tell you, if it was a photograph instead of a drawing it would be pornography,” Wagoner said.

By James Drew

  • Permalink Gallery

    Legislature approves law to create office focused on reducing gun violence

Legislature approves law to create office focused on reducing gun violence

March 6th, 2020|

From the Spokesman-Review

Washington likely will be the first state to create an office focused on reducing firearm violence through data analysis and a grant program to help communities and Indian tribes.

“We don’t need to wait until shots have been fired,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, in a statement. “We need to intervene to prevent violence before it happens.”

The bill passed the House with a minor admendment on a 53-44 vote and was sent back to the Senate for final approval before heading to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. Undert he Legislation the office would be known as the Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention.

Gun violence is a national and statewide crisis that especially affects communities of color, said Rep. Christina Kilduff, D-University Place.

Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, said the focus of the office is too broad and it should only focus on firearm suicides to effectively address the problem.

County prosecutors, researchers, public health agencies and law enforcement departments would be involved in analyzing data, collection methods and gaps, according to the bill.

Several representatives raised concerns about the evidence-based research approach and suggested a peer-reviewed approach to data collection, but those amendments weren’t adopted.

The Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention would work with the Office of Crime Victim Advocacy to support victims of firearms violence, contract a statewide helpline, and offer counseling and referral services.

“We have an epidemic of gun violence before us. This bill will help move the needle and then some,” Kilduff said.

By Daisy Zavala

  • Permalink Gallery

    Dhingra bill will reform state’s Involuntary Treatment Act

Dhingra bill will reform state’s Involuntary Treatment Act

March 6th, 2020|

An overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House passed Senate Bill 5720 on a 95-2 vote Thursday, reforming Washington’s Involuntary Treatment Act to put medical care first when people with behavioral health problems pose a danger to themselves or others.

“The bill updates civil commitment procedures and removes barriers to people getting the help they need,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), the bill’s sponsor. “It prioritizes patient assessment and aftercare.”

The most important change that the bill makes is to extend the initial involuntary hold period to five days. Currently, someone who presents a danger to themselves or others may be involuntarily committed for behavioral health treatment for an initial 72-hour period before a court hearing must be held. However, detox and a comprehensive medical evaluation typically take between three and five days.

Since medical professionals need more than 72 hours for a thorough evaluation, many holds for civil commitment are currently granted extensions in court. The legal proceedings for those extension agreements incur significant costs for the state — money that could otherwise pay for treatment.

Including these extensions, the average number of days a person is detained in Washington state is currently eight. Many states, including Oregon, already have a five-day hold period. This change allows for a full medical evaluation before determining whether a hold needs to be extended.

This bill also undertakes a comprehensive cleanup of the adult and juvenile statutes to coordinate the two effectively. It clarifies terminology, including replacing “mental health” and “substance use disorder” with “behavioral health,” to ensure that people who are seeking crisis services are not put on one track or the other, but are treated holistically under the behavioral health model.

Finally, the bill ensures that people who do not meet the criteria for civil commitment may be discharged at any time by a hospital.

Having been amended by the House, the bill contains differences that must be reconciled by both chambers before it can be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

E-News: Coronavirus update and information

March 5th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

I wanted to update you with information that the Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County are providing about how you can keep yourselves and your loved ones healthy and help slow the spread of coronavirus.

If you have a fever and respiratory distress, call your doctor – don’t go to the clinic or hospital. A doctor will make an assessment about next steps and contact public health officials if a test is needed.

If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus but don’t have a doctor to call, stay home and contact the King County novel coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

The best way to prevent infection is with a few simple yet effective actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. (Singing the happy birthday song twice.)
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow, sleeve or tissue.
  • Bump elbows with friends rather than hugs or handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, and kitchen areas.
  • Use hand sanitizers when unable to wash your hands.

The Washington State Department of Health has also established a call center to address questions. Given the high call volume, it is best to research general questions online if you can. If you need advice about what to do if you have symptoms, you can call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

You can stay informed at these pages:

You can find information about how the situation affects school closures here.

Thank you to the first responders from the Kirkland Fire Department who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. To those who responded, including the more than two dozen who are quarantined, you have our deepest gratitude.

We are fortunate to have an excellent and expert public health system in King County and Washington state that is fully mobilized to slow the spread of the virus and treat those who are affected. We are in good hands.

What we are doing in Olympia

The Senate passed an operating budget last week that dramatically increased funding for coronavirus response with an additional $10 million for public health.

Much more funding is on the way. New legislation to transfer $100 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund into the state disaster response account has passed the House, and we passed it the Senate today (HB 2965).

  • Permalink Gallery

    Dhingra bill to create first-in-nation firearm violence prevention office

Dhingra bill to create first-in-nation firearm violence prevention office

March 5th, 2020|

House passage of Senate Bill 6288 today will make Washington the first state in the nation with a dedicated office to collect statewide data on firearm violence, make the data available for public health research, and fund innovative prevention programs in local communities.

“This bill is about understanding where violence occurs in our communities and how we can address it.,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), the bill’s sponsor. “We don’t need to wait until shots have been fired — we need to intervene to prevent violence before it happens.”

SB 6288 would establish the Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, which would work with law enforcement agencies and others to collect and centralize data on firearm violence, including suicide.

In addition, the office would administer the Washington Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program, a competitive process to fund evidence-based initiatives undertaken by cities and community-based organizations in Washington.

The office will also publish a guide to best practices for therapy for firearm violence victims as well as establish and staff a statewide helpline, counseling and referral service for survivors of firearm violence, their families and friends, and professionals.

These mental health treatment measures in SB 6288 were developed by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) and proposed earlier this year in SB 6553, which did not pass the Senate.

“The effects of firearm violence on survivors’ mental health can be devastating and long-lasting. We as a state, as a community, need to be doing all that we can to help survivors deal with the trauma, and that’s what this legislation will do,” said Frockt.

The office’s approach is modeled on King County’s Shots Fired project. Every year, 155 King County residents die from gunshots and another 150 are hospitalized, according to a report from the project presented at a work session of the Senate Law & Justice Committee last fall. This violence can cause lifelong trauma for survivors. The Shots Fired project applies a public health approach to firearm violence, with an emphasis on early intervention and prevention. SB 6288 applies the approach statewide.

“In the Legislature, we have been taking meaningful steps to transform our criminal justice system from a crisis response model to an early intervention and prevention model,” Dhingra said. “This bill is an important addition to that work.”

Having passed the House by a vote of 53-44 with a technical amendment, SB 6288 now returns to the Senate for a vote of concurrence.

Mandatory sex education bill headed to Gov. Inslee’s desk for signature

March 5th, 2020|

From Q13 Fox

A measure that makes K-12 sex education mandatory in Washington public schools is headed to the governor’s desk for his signature.

The proposal, requested by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, would require all public schools in Washington state to teach age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed. to 6th-12th graders starting in the 2021-2022 school year, then expand it to all students by the 2022-2023 school year.

The state Senate passed the measure with a 27-21 vote over the weekend.

It’s been a controversial topic throughout the Legislative session, and not everyone believes it’s in students’ best interests.

“These amendments will just drive more people into private schools or home schooling so parents will have some control over what their kids are taught,” said state Sen. Curtis King, a Yakima Republican.

State Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, defended the bill, noting that the curriculum is age-appropriate and will teach older students about consent.

The bill is set to become law pending a signature from the governor.