As we continue to see an increase of new COVID-19 infections in our state, all of our lives have been drastically altered in so many ways. I find hope in all the people in our community and across the state who are stepping up to meet so many difficult challenges.

I think we all have deep gratitude for the medical professionals trying to save lives in our hospitals and for everyone else regularly putting their health at risk in support of our collective efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, including those on the front lines keeping essential services available like food service, public safety, and transit and ferry workers. The state’s emergency management operations center is working 24/7 to route protective supplies and medical equipment where they are most needed, and both Amazon and Microsoft have recently deployed their procurement leaders to assist state government with global sourcing and freight transport efforts.

I am writing to share some of the state and local resources available to you, as well as to update you on the recent actions taken by the governor and the Legislature related to the outbreak.

I know the resilience of Washingtonians combined with the support of our government and our friends, families and neighbors will get us through this crisis. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Response and actions

It was a relief to see Congress pass a sweeping relief package late last week to address the ongoing health and economic consequences of the emergency. Rep. Derek Kilmer has details on how the package will help working families, impacted businesses and our entire state on his website. Here at the state level, Gov. Inslee and Legislature have taken the following steps to:

  • Appropriate $200 million in emergency funding to support testing, expand hospital capacity, and support our state and local public health response
  • Expand unemployment insurance for people who are quarantined and waived the one week waiting period to receive approval
  • Increase access to health care coverage by opening WA Health Exchange enrollment for anyone who does not currently have health insurance
  • 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 due to this emergency
  • Adopt a 30-day statewide moratorium on evictions
  • Encourage utilities to suspend shut-offs & waive late fees for out-of-work customers (both PSE and Cascade Natural Gas have announced COVID payment flexibility policies)
  • Provide flexibility to allow high school seniors to graduate this year if they were on track for graduation before the emergency declaration

Available resources

This is a rapidly evolving situation with new information coming out daily and sometimes hourly. Therefore, the best advice we can give is to urge you to please follow the most recent directions, guidance, and best practices given by Gov. Inslee and state and local public health officials. They have demonstrated strong leadership throughout this crisis to help slow the spread of the disease and keep as many people safe and healthy as possible.

  • Other languages: Fact sheets about coronavirus are currently available in 15 languages.
  • Schools: OSPI is continuously updating information at their website.
  • Unemployment resources: Washington has made it faster for those who are unemployed due to COVID-19 to receive unemployment insurance.
  • Essential business list: Details about jobs or businesses considered essential during the Governor’s stay home, stay healthy order.
  • Personal protective equipment: Washington is seeking to fill shortages of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns, and gloves to support our medical system, first responders, public health facilities.

OTHER LINKS:

Hope and ingenuity

I continue to find energy from stories about the ingenuity of people working to solve problems across the state. Whether it is Outdoor Research converting its manufacturing facility in Seattle to eventually produce upwards of 200,000 masks per day or Bainbridge Organic Distillers shifting operations to make hand sanitizer, it is inspiring to see how people are rising to the challenge.

We are all experiencing this pandemic differently but we all have an important role to play in protecting public health and safety. For those not on the front lines, please know that the best way to protect your loved ones and to help with the state’s economic recovery is to help slow the spread of the virus and beat it back by staying at home. There are a multitude of online resources to help answer your questions and to keep you engaged. Reach out to older or disabled neighbors or parents with young children who may need your help, stay in touch with family and friends, and enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds each of us. Thank you for being part of this community.