Monthly Archives: March 2020

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    E-news – A COVID-19 update about the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order

E-news – A COVID-19 update about the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order

March 25th, 2020|

Friends, neighbors –

On Monday evening March 23, Governor Inslee signed a two-week “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation in Washington state, similar to orders you may have heard about in other states that are also battling coronavirus outbreaks. This decision was not made lightly — it is essential to our ability to control the virus and prevent the number of cases from overwhelming our healthcare system.  Here’s what yesterday’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order means: 

We are ALLOWED to: 

  • Leave the house for essential activities, like grocery shopping and medical care. 
  • Get takeout food from your favorite local restaurants. 
  • Go to work at an essential business, like post offices and pharmacies. 

With modifications, we are ALLOWED to: 

  • Go outside for walks and exercise (because taking care of your mental and physical health, and the health of your furry friend, is absolutely an essential activity!) – as long as you stay six feet away from others. 

We are NOT ALLOWED to: 

  • Gather in groups for social, spiritual, and recreational purposes. 
  • Host or join in-person visits with family and friends. 
  • Camp on state lands. 
  • Go to work at a non-essential business beginning TOMORROW March 26th. 
Stay Home Stay Healthy

These measures are so crucial for protecting health care workers, first responders, and current patients. We’ll be able to slow the spread of the virus so that everyone can give and receive the health care they need, with an adequate amount of supplies – like personal protective equipment and ventilators – available for that care. I know it’s tough to stay home so much more than we’re used to, but staying home is about staying healthy – and keeping others healthy, too! I have been so encouraged and inspired by the way our community members have banded together to help each other through this, and I know we’ll continue to rise to the occasion. 

All my best,

Signature

P.S. If you have questions or information about donations of much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) for health care workers who are in short supply, please email PPEDonation@des.wa.gov. You can find a list of needed items here

E-news – An update on COVID-19

March 20th, 2020|

Friends, neighbors—

This is a time of uncertainty and worry – for all of us. Together we’re grieving the lives lost to the virus. Together we’re anxious about our own finances, and the future of our economy. Together we’re imagining how kids – and students of all ages – will bounce back after this time out of school.  

But we are also finding creative solutions and comfort together. We are recognizing the power of collective action, and the importance of a strong safety net.  I have so much faith in our families and friends, neighbors and communities, state agencies and local organizations – and in our ability to support one another through this crisis. 

Read on for: 

  1. What our government is doing
  2. What YOU can do
  3. A fun fact (because we all need a little levity!)
Sen Randall and Sen Cleveland

1. This new website will help keep all our communities informed: coronavirus.wa.govHere, you’ll find a frequently-updated compilation of all the coronavirus information from Governor Inslee’s office, our state agencies, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more. I encourage you to explore this website and to pass it on to others in our community who have questions. 

Yesterday, the governor issued executive orders to help support Washingtonians impacted by these uncertain times –

  • Assistance for renters: Among the measures announced by the governor is a statewide moratorium on evictions of residential tenants for the next 30 days. As Washington faces the economic impacts of COVID-19, no one should be put out of their home as a result. 
  • Utility rate payer assistance: The governor called on all public utilities in our state to ensure the health and safety of their employees and the public by suspending disconnection of services for nonpayment, waiving late fees for customers who are out of work, and expanding bill assistance programs for customers who’ve been economically impacted by this emergency. 
  • Assistance for workers: The governor waived the one week waiting period to receive unemployment insurance, which will get more funds in the pockets of unemployed workers. The order is retroactive for claims filed up to March 8, the day of the governor’s first emergency rule expanding unemployment insurance criteria. 
  • Business assistance: Up to $5 million of the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Funds will be made available as small grants to small business across the state to help prevent closure due to COVID-19. The federal Small Business Administration has also approved the governor’s request for a disaster declaration, which will unlock low-interest loans that help small business meet their financial obligations and cover operating expenses. 
  • Cash assistance to families: Under the governor’s direction, the state Department of Social and Health Services will expand eligibility for the Family Emergency Assistance Program to include families without children. 
  • Long-term care waivers: The state is doing a number of things to ease pressure on the long-term care system, especially our nursing homes. This involves suspending rules around nursing home assessment requirements to allow for faster admissions, and suspending inspections and surveys on particular timelines. 
  • Supply chain flexibility: To ensure the timely delivery of certain goods that are critical during this crisis, the governor is waiving restrictions on hours worked for delivery drivers carrying groceries, medical supplies and equipment, pharmaceuticals, fuel, and pet food and supplies. Shout out to our amazing delivery drivers and all the hard work they’re doing to help us all maintain access to such important goods and services! 

2. The single most important thing to do right now is limit contact with others.

To stem the spread of the coronavirus, it’s absolutely crucial to change our normal day-to-day behavior and reduce our exposure to other people. We can reduce the numbers of people who will be exposed, which will in turn reduce the numbers who will test positive, which will in turn reduce the numbers who develop life-threatening illness. We can reduce illness and truly save lives – but only if we take the right steps right nowSo: call, FaceTime, or host Zoom get-togethers with friends and family instead of getting together in person. Limiting exposure to others is our responsibility – that’s how we “flatten the curve” (aka keep the number of new cases below hospital and health care worker capacity – here’s a helpful graph to show you what I mean!): 

Flatten the curve graph

Other important things to do: wash your hands! Health experts recommend washing well – being sure to scrub between your fingers and under your nails, and with good antibacterial soap – for at least 20 seconds. It helps to hum the chorus of your favorite song so that you know you’ve washed your hands for the recommended time. No soap and water handy? Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content, and wipe down frequently-touched surfaces with a sanitizing wipe. 

3. And here’s some good news! 

Our community members have pulled together in such an inspiring way during this emergency – making sure people are fed, housed, and cared for. The disruption to our schools’ schedules has had a particularly negative impact on students that previously relied on school to receive a square meal, but our neighbors have stepped in – in a big way – to keep students fed.  

Tacoma Community College, for example, is providing financial, housing, and food support through the TCC Foundation’s student emergency fund and is continuing to operate the Max and Margi Harned Titan Food Pantry so that students aren’t going without basic necessities even as campuses empty and classes shift online. TCC has also done extensive work to provide student access and address equity issues, making sure that students have the equipment for distance learning. 

The efforts of our higher education institutions in particular – to take care of their students, faculty, and staff – are nothing new! When I passed my bill last year to establish programs at certain colleges that would support students experiencing housing and food insecurity, our higher ed institutions advocated for that policy the whole way. I’ve been so encouraged by how they and other community leaders throughout the state have taken it upon themselves to take care of everyone, not only in this time of emergency but all the time. I hope this brightens your day the way it brightened mine! 

All my best,

Signature

E-news – Session 2020: By the numbers

March 16th, 2020|

Friends, neighbors—

As of yesterday, we’ve crossed the finish line of our 60-day legislative session – and there is *so* much to be proud of!

All my colleagues at the Legislature worked together to respond to the needs of Washingtonians. We did that by expanding access to quality health care, opening doors to affordable housing, answering the needs of our kiddos and teachers in K-12 schools, eliminating barriers to higher education, taking care of our small and local business owners, and banding together to support cities statewide as we all combat COVID-19 and take care of one another. Our collaborative, community-oriented work and the investments we made are especially important as we adapt to changing public health guidance that affects Washington families, like we’ve seen with today’s statewide school closures. 

I’m excited to give you a full session report card soon but, for now, here’s a quick look at our amazing 2020 session – by the numbers! 

Sen Randall in higher ed

2020 Session Stats

12 of my bills (plus the House “companion” version of my bills) passed

377 total bills passed the Legislature

$1,318,000 total dollars invested in our district

2,500+ emails we’ve responded to (and we’re still going!)

320+ phone calls with community members

12,230+ views on my most widely-shared Facebook post

210 town hall attendees (including our Facebook Live viewers!)

425 constituents who visited with me this session

10 job shadows and Pages I had the opportunity to host

Spotlight: Capital budget wins 

While my *next* e-newsletter will be a full, in-depth review of our wins this session, I’m so excited about the amazing capital budget investments we won for our district that I want to highlight some of them for you now! We received: 

  • $100,000 for Lakebay Marina Acquisition  
  • $52,000 for the Greater Gig Harbor Community Campus 
  • $250,000 for Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank 
  • $24,000 for South Kitsap High School NJROTC Equipment 
  • $294,000 for the Harbor Hope Center Home for Girls 
  • $309,000 for South Kitsap School District Health Center 
  • $289,000 for Penrose Park Improvements 

These investments in and around our community will go such a long way for our neighbors – bringing people together, supporting programming for our kiddos, and establishing spaces for people to play and be active. 

Good news: Transportation Projects 

Because of the huge funding hole created in our state’s transportation budget by the passage of I-976, the governor had to pause critical projects all over the state until we figured out ways to fund them. We also started this session worried about potential cuts to key services like State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, and special needs transportation. Luckily both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Transportation Committee were committed to doing the least damage to our communities as possible. We worked together to comb though the budget and find efficiencies, ensuring that our transit-dependent and rural Washingtonians would not be disproportionately disadvantaged by this abrupt lack of funding. The budget we passed should allow projects that were paused by the governor after the passage of I-976 to be un-paused. Last stop: the governor’s desk. 

Sen Randall and Sen Sheldon

Overview: Statewide operating budget investments 

I’m thrilled to say that we worked hard to pass a supplemental operating budget that keeps our four-year budget balanced. It leaves $3 billion in total reserves at the end of the biennium (which is so important in the face of unexpected crises or disasters, like the one we’re all braving right now – we know that we are well-prepared to face challenges head on!). The budget makes big investments in support of working families, and addresses so many of our most urgent needs across the state: public health, housing accessibility, childcare, climate resilience. It does all this while being fiscally responsible and putting both current needs and future needs at the center.  

Looking ahead to interim: coffee hours and community calls 

As much I love being in Olympia and working alongside my colleagues in service of our state, I really love being home with my neighbors – connecting over coffee, buying flowers and veggies at the farmer’s market, strolling the beach in Southworth, shopping in the Harbor, and attending great events on the Key like the Logging Show and Farm Tour. That said, I want to take every possible measure to follow the suggestions of health care professionals encouraging folks to stay home and stay healthy. This means I’m exploring options to continue my weekly coffee hours virtually. Look out for information to come on how we’ll be staying connected while practicing healthy social distancing precautions! 

My week in Olympia

I believe in transparency, and I want to keep you all informed about what I’m doing on behalf of the 26th District in Olympia. That’s why I’m making a practice of posting my legislative calendar each week on my Facebook page and posting frequent, real-time updates on my Instagram and Twitter pages.

Keep in touch

We are all eager to hear from you about your priorities. I hope you’ll follow me on Facebook so you can see what we’re up to. And please feel free to reach out anytime at 360-786-7650 or Emily.Randall@leg.wa.gov. The more we hear from you, the better our work in Olympia can reflect our shared values and goals.

All my best,

Signature

E-news – Spotlight: All our great work for our K-12 kiddos!

March 9th, 2020|

Friends, neighbors— 

Our short 2020 legislative session is nearing its end. There is so much to be proud of – especially all the work we’ve done to give all of our kiddos every opportunity to succeed. As chair of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee, I spend a lot of time opening doors for students after K-12, but setting people up for success in college and careers means supporting kiddos long before their senior year. Investments in early learning, supporting students struggling with homelessness, improving social-emotional learning standards, and bolstering graduation pathways are all parts of building a well-prepared workforce. And we have so many education and career wins to celebrate this year! 

Randall and kiddo

Spotlight: K-12 Education

*FYI most of these bills have passed the House and the Senate. Final stop: the governor’s office! 

HB 2455 allows parents who are attending high school or who are working toward completing a high school equivalency certificate to qualify for Working Connections Child Care, a federal- and state-funded program. Parents in high school would be able to take care of their little one and focus on their education, and schools will even provide transportation to both parent and baby. We know earning a high school degree is critical for future job success. This bill will help alleviate the burden of child care on parenting teens so they can earn their degree, pursue their dreams, and take care of their family. 

HB 2660 helps feed kiddos who struggle with food insecurity. It increases the availability of school meals provided to public school students at 18 lower income school districts. This program provides all students with no-cost lunch which eliminates stigma and meal debt, and we know that kids do better in school when they’re well-nourished. 

SB 6117 would increase the funding for students enrolled in special education who are in the general education classroom. This would help us support our students in special education programs at schools throughout the state, something that para-educators and teachers have been asking for. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach to education – especially for our young learners with special learning needs – doesn’t work. With this bill we can work to accommodate all of our students. This bill hasn’t made it to the House floor yet, so if it’s something you’re excited about, I encourage you to reach out to your representatives in the House and urge them to help us get this bill to the governor’s desk this session! 

Sen. Randall and group photo with visiting class

HB 1660 helps close the current opportunity gaps in extracurricular participation at high school. It also directs school boards to adopt a policy to waive fees for students who are low-income.  Participation and success should never be limited by socioeconomic status. This bill will help schools examine what they can do to help more of their students pursue soccer, marching band, theatre, debate – whatever they love and whatever they want to try! I am so excited this bill has passed both chambers this week with bipartisan support. 

Besides voting on great bills for kids, I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting with students from Lighthouse Christian School, East Port Orchard, Hidden Creek Elementary, Libert-T School, Discovery Elementary, and Mullenix Ridge Elementary – and heard great ideas from our youngest neighbors. I love how much they care about their classmates and their siblings in different grades, and how excited they are to do everything they can to help make the world a better place. Chatting with our young neighbors gives me so much hope, and reminds me why we do the work to support our students. Keep an eye on my FacebookInstagram, and Twitter accounts  I’ll be answering questions from these kiddos in the weeks to come! 

My week in Olympia

I believe in transparency, and I want to keep you all informed about what I’m doing on behalf of the 26th District in Olympia. That’s why I’m making a practice of posting my calendar here each week on Facebook, and have launched an Instagram account (@senatoremilyrandall) to give you more in-the-moment updates.

Keep in touch

We are all eager to hear from you about your priorities. I hope you’ll follow me on Facebook so you can see what we’re up to. And please feel free to reach out anytime at 360-786-7650 or Emily.Randall@leg.wa.gov. The more we hear from you, the better our work in Olympia can reflect our shared values and goals.

All my best,

Signature

Update #2: Information and resource on COVID-19 in Pierce County

March 7th, 2020|

As you may have heard, health officials have confirmed Pierce County’s first case of COVID-19. The patient is in stable condition and is improving, and my sincere well-wishes are with him and his family and friends. 

The health and safety of Washingtonians is my number one priority – as a lawmaker and as the Vice Chair of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, as a longtime health advocate and as a member of my community. Keeping our community safe and healthy in the face of a health emergency like COVID-19 takes strong communication and cooperation between health officers and elected officials of all levels, and I am proud to have worked with my House and Senate colleagues to allocate funding as swiftly as possible, and with our State Department of Health and County Public Health Officers who are doing the frontline work. Special thanks to Congressman Derek Kilmer and Councilmember Derek Young for their strong partnership and commitment to caring for our neighbors in this uncertain time. 

I have faith that the $100 million that the Legislature has fast-tracked will immediately and directly support our collective response to COVID-19. I also have faith in – and deep, deep appreciation for – our health care professionals, who have been working around the clock to treat patients who have been affected and prevent further spread of the virus. It is my honor to do everything I can in support of our “boots on the ground:” first responders and health care providers who are tireless in their diligent care of our neighbors. 

I will be closely monitoring updates from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department – as well as the Kitsap Public Health Districts where we’ve recently learned of four negative test results – on COVID-19 in our region as I receive them. You can find resources on my website here, or call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127. If you have any questions or comments for me, please do not hesitate to reach me at Emily.Randall@leg.wa.gov or at (360) 786-7650. 

Update: Information and resources on COVID-19

March 3rd, 2020|

Friends, neighbors –

It’s so important to me that my community (and all Washingtonians!) feel safe and healthy, *and* know that their elected officials and public health officials are working tirelessly on their behalf. Given rising concerns about COVID-19, I want to make sure you have access to all the info you need to take the best care of yourself and your family, friends, and neighbors.

The House and Senate are both working hard on bills that will allocate increased funds to state agencies and local governments so that they have the resources they need to respond to COVID-19. These would give the Department of Social and Health Services funding to increase nursing staff to help address this growing need. We’ll continue to work with DOH, DSHS, and other state agencies to identify what the Legislature can do to ensure we have the necessary resources. Senators will also get an official briefing tomorrow (3/4) and I’d be happy to share with you what I learn. But the real experts (and heroes) here are the medical professionals working so hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to help anyone affected get better as soon as possible. That’s why I wanted to post a list of helpful links and other words of wisdom from health experts here on my website.

  • Here’s a link to the Center for Disease Control‘s page on COVID-19. Information straight from medical experts is available there.
  • You can also head to the Washington State Department of Health‘s site for thorough and updated information on all the steps being taken in Washington to keep Washingtonians healthy.
  • The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is another great place to go for information. Head to their page for a comprehensive list of hotlines you can call, FAQs, and brochures available in 7 different languages.
  • Kitsap Public Health District also has a wonderful, recently-updated page packed with information about best practices and what to do if you feel sick.
  • Other best practices: wash your hands frequently and well (and sing the chorus of your favorite song while you scrub so that you wash them long enough!), stay home if you’re feeling sick, and show compassion and support for those who have been directly impacted by this disease. Now’s the time to take care of each other!
  • Still have questions? You can call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

Please share any and all of this page with your neighbors. I am always happy to connect you to resources and information, and if you have thoughts about how our community can best prepare and what we can do to take care of one another better, please don’t hesitate to email me at Emily.Randall@leg.wa.gov or call me at (360) 786-7650.

All my best,

Signature

E-news – Special joint e-news on all things health care with Sen. Rolfes!

March 2nd, 2020|

Randall Rolfes banner

Friends, neighbors –  

As state senators representing the Kitsap Peninsula, we wanted to take the opportunity to share news about one of your top areas of concerns: health care. We’ve both heard a lot of feedback from you – our friends and neighbors in our districts – about challenges many households face with access to affordable care. We thought it might be helpful to sum up the ways in which we’ve taken huge strides and continue to make progress toward greater accessibility and affordability in the world of health care.

In 2018, the Legislature passed policy that:

  • Requires health plans sold in Washington state to cover, with no cost sharing, all preventive services required under federal law as of Dec. 31, 2016.
  • Prohibits the sale of firefighting foam that contains chemicals that were found in well water and pose a health threat to the public.
  • Requires health plans in our state to cover all types of contraception without cost sharing.
  • Requires health care providers to cover the cost of 3-D mammograms, which are superior to traditional mammograms at detecting early stages of cancer than and ensures doctors inform and assist patients with high breast density, a condition that can make it harder to detect early stages of cancer.
Randall green dress Rolfes

In 2019, we passed legislation that:

  • Addressed the opioid crisis on multiple fronts and directed state agencies to collaborate on a comprehensive, statewide strategy for treating and preventing opioid use disorder.
  • Created the Long-Term Care Trust Act, a program to help families cover some of the costs of long-term care.
  • Created a work group to identify and recommend how the state can achieve universal health care.
  • Established the nation’s first public option – Cascade Care – an important step in ensuring that all Washingtonians (especially those who don’t have coverage through their employer) can access an affordable coverage option.
  • Protected people’s right to certain levels of essential health coverage on any plan under the Affordable Care Act by codifying them into state law.
  • Protected patients from surprise medical bills by requiring providers to negotiate and absorb differences in costs between themselves when using out-of-network services.

While we’ve not quite finished session 2020, we’ve heard and voted on great legislation to:

  • Control the cost of insulin for Washington families by capping monthly out-of-pocket costs, creating a central purchasing process, and even exploring “pharma tourism” to take advantage of lower prices in Canada.
  • Create the Washington Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help curb excessive price spikes in prescription drugs and ensure that they are priced affordably.
  • Support nursing home patients and reduce the potential for nursing home closures by increasing skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement rates.
  • Keep premiums stable and health care more affordable by allowing the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to consider an insurance carrier’s surplus money when an insurance carrier applies to raise its premiums.
  • Create greater transparency in health care by regulating benefits managers (aka the mysterious middlemen that health insurance companies contract with to reduce costs) while also giving consumers some recourse when they’re having trouble.
  • Extend Medicaid coverage to new moms from a meager 60 days to a full year post-partum, strengthening families and ensuring better long-term health for new parents and babies.
  • Strengthen local access to health care and support the doctors who provide it by increasing Medicaid primary care reimbursement rates.

Rolfes pink blazer Randall

As you can see, we’ve been busy working to dismantle barriers and simplify unnecessarily complicated health care access. We are also working to strengthen our foundational public health infrastructure to respond to emerging public health threats, including an additional $10 million to help support local health officials as they plan how to protect the public in the event of a coronavirus outbreak. We are committed to staying at the forefront of quality, accessible health care so that all Washingtonians and their families can flourish.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

All our best,

Emily and Christine

SignatureRolfes signature