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,

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).

E-News: A New Session Begins

January 13th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

Happy New Year! With the beginning of another year comes another legislative session, and we are ready to go. I have prefiled 12 bills on issues from preventing identity theft to protecting survivors of crime to fighting the opioid epidemic. You can find a list of all my bills for this biennium here. Here are some highlights.

Keeping Washingtonians Safe

There are certain situations in which some people simply should not have access to deadly weapons. That includes people who are in crisis and pose a clear danger to themselves or others. It includes people with a history of violence who are found incompetent to stand trial when charged with a crime or those who are guilty of domestic violence harassment. The Legislature and the people of Washington have passed laws in recent years to enact these changes. The research shows that these laws save lives.

That’s why I’m sponsoring SB 6163 to give judges the discretion to restrict the use of firearms by individuals charged with the felony of driving under the influence. A recent study by UC Davis Violence Prevention Program found that for handgun owners, a prior DUI conviction is an indicator of future arrest for violent offense including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—and a 300 percent increase in future risk of domestic violence arrest.

Menstrual Hygiene Products in Schools

Without menstrual products, nearly 1 in 5 American girls have either left school early or missed school entirely. When I visited their class, some extraordinary students from Mr. Dawson’s AP Government and Politics class at Lake Washington High School proposed a bill that would provide free feminine-hygiene products in middle and high schools across our state. I’m proud to sponsor that bill, SB 6073, this session.

More to Come

The prefiled bills are only a part of what I’m working on this year. Since the 2019 session ended, I have been listening to community members, advocates, and experts about the most pressing problems facing Washington, and I will be sponsoring legislation to tackle many more. This includes reforming our Involuntary Treatment Act, providing safe harbor for children who are survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and improving the child support payment system.

How to Become a Senate Page

We still have some slots for Senate pages this legislative session! During each week of the session, students from across Washington state come to Olympia to serve as pages.

Pages spend a portion of each day assisting with the Legislature’s work and a portion attending Page School. Both provide the opportunity to learn about the role of the Legislature, its process and its participants. For the Monday-through-Friday work week they serve, pages are paid $35 per day. Pages do not work overtime or on weekends, regardless of the Senate’s work schedule.

For more information about the page program, or to download an application, click here.

Stay in Touch

We cannot do our work in Olympia without hearing from you. We are eager to hear your concerns and hopes for our state. Please follow me on Facebook to stay up to date on our work and, most importantly, feel free to reach out anytime. The more we hear from you, the better your Legislature can reflect our shared values and goals.