Monthly Archives: June 2020

E-News: Mask Up for Phase 2

June 25th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

We have much to be proud of. Working together, we have slowed the spread of coronavirus. As we reopen our state’s economy, it’s important to exercise caution so that we can safely resume many of the activities of our daily lives. Now that King County has entered Phase 2, it’s all the more important to follow public health guidelines about hand washing, social distancing, and especially wearing face masks. You can read more below.

King County moves to Phase 2

In Phase 2, social gatherings may be held with five or fewer people outside your household. Restaurants can reopen at less than 50% capacity, and retailers at less than 30% capacity. Businesses must follow state guidelines to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. These include social distancing, regular hand washing and wearing cloth masks. You can read more about Phase 2 here, and you can find the guidelines for businesses and employees here.

Mask Up, Washington

Despite the progress we have made, we are seeing a worrisome uptick in coronavirus cases across Washington. Recent research suggests that one of the best ways to reduce transmission is by wearing cloth face masks. The masks protect other people from getting the virus from us when we talk, cough or sneeze.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could still be a danger to others. Between 20% and 40% of people with COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms but can still spread the virus. Wearing masks in public places helps protect everyone you meet and is a crucial way to allow for safe reopening of economic activity.

That’s why the governor has issued a statewide mandate for mask-wearing in public. There are exemptions for people with health conditions, and there are times when you can remove your mask, like when eating at a restaurant. You also do not need to wear a mask when you are alone or only with the members of your household, or when you are outdoors and six feet from other people.

Until a vaccine or cure is developed, masks will be our best defense.

This mask rule is like the speed limits on our roads—it’s about preventing reckless behavior that can hurt others. We can all do our part to protect others!

Stay in Touch

If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch. Stay safe and take care.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore

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    Keiser applauds financial support measure for furloughed workers, employers

Keiser applauds financial support measure for furloughed workers, employers

June 25th, 2020|

From the Kent Reporter

State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, announced her support of Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation to strengthen and extend the state Employment Security Department’s SharedWork program for small businesses, nonprofits and local governments.

SharedWork is a voluntary business sustainability program with the state that provides flexibility to retain employees at reduced hours.

“The governor’s action to strengthen our state’s SharedWork program will remove barriers to partial employment for many workers who have been furloughed and will help keep small businesses, non-profits, and local governments solvent during this crisis,” Keiser said in a June 23 news release.

For claimants to be on SharedWork, their employers must apply to participate in the program, according to the Employment Security Department website. It allows employers to reduce hours by as much as 50 percent, while their employees collect partial benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. The state uses the SharedWork chart to deduct their earnings from their weekly benefits.

“Washington’s SharedWork is a proven win-win program that provides businesses with the flexibility to retain employees through a voluntary sustainability program,” Keiser said. “It allows employers to reduce the hours of their staff by 10% to 50%, while their workers receive unemployment benefits that can largely offset their decreased pay.”

Thousands of Washington employers have used the SharedWork program to:

• Support business stability

• Retain skilled workers

• Reduce payroll costs

• Be a smart alternative to layoffs

• Explore training programs that develop workforce skills

“Through the CARES Act, the federal government will pick up 100% of the tab for state shared work programs during the pandemic, if state laws allow,” Keiser said. “The governor’s proclamation allows our state to take full advantage of this federal funding and also spares businesses the charges they would normally incur. The SharedWork program is a strong anti-recession tool because it keeps businesses, nonprofits, local government strong; keeps money flowing into workers’ pockets; and maintains the connections between employers and their workers, making it easier for the economy to rebound when the crisis is past.”

Employers and employees must follow certain rules as part of the program, including:

• Claimants on SharedWork do not have to look for other work.

• They must be available for all work offered by their regular employer.

• Employers must continue to pay for employees’ health insurance.

• SharedWork plans last one year and have a maximum benefits payable amount.

• Employees who work fewer hours may run out of benefits more quickly.

• SharedWork participants may be eligible for benefit extensions.

Organizations can find more information about the SharedWork program at https://esd.wa.gov/SharedWork.

By Steve Hunter

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    Keiser applauds measure to strengthen financial support for furloughed workers and employers

Keiser applauds measure to strengthen financial support for furloughed workers and employers

June 22nd, 2020|

Upon the announcement of proclamation 20-58 by Governor Inslee, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) released the following statement:

The governor’s action today to strengthen our state’s SharedWork program will remove barriers to partial employment for many workers who have been furloughed and will help keep small businesses, non-profits, and local governments solvent during this crisis.

Washington’s SharedWork is a proven win-win program that provides businesses with the flexibility to retain employees through a voluntary sustainability program. It allows employers to reduce the hours of their staff by 10% to 50%, while their workers receive unemployment benefits that can largely offset their decreased pay.

Through the CARES Act, the federal government will pick up 100% of the tab for state shared work programs during the pandemic, if state laws allow. The governor’s proclamation allows our state to take full advantage of this federal funding and also spares businesses the charges they would normally incur.

The SharedWork program is a strong anti-recession tool because it keeps businesses, non-profits, local government strong; keeps money flowing into workers’ pockets; and maintains the connections between employers and their workers, making it easier for the economy to rebound when the crisis is past.

Organizations can find more information about the SharedWork program at https://esd.wa.gov/SharedWork.

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    E-News: Food Assistance for School Children, School Reopening Guidelines

E-News: Food Assistance for School Children, School Reopening Guidelines

June 11th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

Our schools perform many crucial functions in the community, from their core mission of education to providing nutritious meals for students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them. In this time of crisis, our schools are stepping up to make sure that school closures don’t mean that kids have to go hungry.

Pandemic Food Benefits

Because of the impact of the COVID pandemic, this summer, our state will help families with school children buy groceries. The benefit, Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) is available to families with children who are eligible for schools’ free or reduced-price meal programs. P-EBT benefits do not replace any child nutrition programs already offered, and families are encouraged to continue participating in grab-n-go meals or emergency food programs at their local schools and community locations.

Most families who already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as SNAP or Basic Food, and whose children already receive free or reduced-price meals do not need to apply. The P-EBT benefits – a one-time amount up to $399 per eligible child in each household – will be automatically deposited onto existing EBT cards in early July.

Other families, including those whose children attend a school where meals are free for all students, will need to apply for free or reduced-price meals with their school district before June 30. Once approved by their school district, these families can apply for P-EBT online at Washingtonconnection.org before August 31 or the start of the 2020-2021 school year—whichever is later. Families who need to apply or who have other questions about P-EBT benefits can call the DSHS Customer Service Contact Center at 877-501-2233 on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Guidelines for Reopening Schools

The Superintendent of Public Schools has released a set of guidelines for safely reopening schools in the fall, including measures such as instituting health screenings, requiring cloth face masks for staff and students, increasing hygiene and social distancing precautions in school buildings, and cancelling classes and activities that aren’t conducive to distancing. You can read more about the guidelines here.

Beware of Email Fraud Scam

Recently, Washington State employees were the target of a phishing campaign. Similar tricks may be used to target others.

The fraudsters are sending fake Secure Access Washington (SAW) emails in an attempt to trick individuals into providing their account credentials.

In the example above, users are being told they have 24 hours to correct inaccurate information or their SAW account will be restricted. SAW administrators will never send users an email asking for validation of account details. Do not click on the links in the email or reply to it.

Stay in Touch

If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch. Stay safe and take care.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore

E-news: An open letter to the people of Washington

June 5th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

I am profoundly moved by the events of the past ten days, and am staying in touch with all our communities in the 33rd legislative district to hear concerns about police agencies and constituent complaints. I have been reassured with what I have heard so far. I am continuing to connect with our local communities to learn what steps we can take to improve police accountability and security for all our neighbors.

The Senate Democratic Caucus leadership has sent this open letter to the people of Washington state on behalf of the entire caucus:

The Senate Democratic Caucus – fully recognizing that our own state Senate lacks the voice of even a single Black legislator, a voice that needs to ground us today and always – stands with our Black neighbors throughout Washington as we grieve together the violent and unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Charleena Lyles, Manuel Ellis and too many others, at the hands of law enforcement.

A history of systemic and institutionalized racism and violence leveled against our Black neighbors has manifested in days of protests around our grieving country, including here at home. As the Senate Democratic Caucus, we unequivocally stand with those who are raising their voices in pain, anger and hope to make demands for substantive change.

We are moved by the love and grief displayed over the life and death of George Floyd that has mobilized so many of every background, some for the first time. Though our state and country face a moment of deep pain and renewed trauma, we are also witness to a pivotal moment of potential historic change in public policy; one with an opportunity to craft equitable and compassionate laws that serve all of us.

We recognize that the power to make substantive change lies with us, the policymakers. We recognize this power to make substantive change should have been wielded long ago. We recognize that Black, Indigenous and brown lives have been disproportionately subjected to police brutality in addition to the merciless cycle of incarceration. We are committed to changing these broken institutions.

Our agenda will be shaped by the community. We are committed to listening and working alongside Black leaders and organizers. Their ideas and their solutions to these issues will be elevated so that we may respond to their call for action. Successful efforts toward change have always had their origins at the local level. We are listening.

Know that we grieve with you, stand united in your call for justice and promise to work with you in these next crucial steps toward real change.

On behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus,

Sen. Andy Billig
Majority Leader
Sen. Manka Dhingra
Deputy Majority Leader
Sen. Rebecca Saldaña
Deputy Majority Leader

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore

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    E-news: SharedWork can avert layoffs, keep businesses afloat

E-news: SharedWork can avert layoffs, keep businesses afloat

June 2nd, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

Anyone who owns or works for a Washington business that’s hit by the economic effects of the pandemic should consider using our state’s SharedWork program. It’s a way for small-to-medium-sized businesses to retain employees while decreasing costs. And it’s a way for employees to receive unemployment benefits that can largely offset their decreased pay. This is a true win-win program for businesses and employees.

SharedWork is a solution for businesses that need to open more slowly with reduced capacity and who want to provide their employees with an incentive to return. The program allows businesses to reduce the hours of their staff by 10% to 50%. Their employees will receive unemployment benefits for a partial wage replacement against those reduced hours.

Each employee on SharedWork will receive the wages for the hours they work, their calculated weekly benefit amount, and an additional $600 per week through the end of July.

The program is not just for private businesses. More than 200 employees of the City of Renton have been using SharedWork to save the city money and save jobs. It’s a partnership that helps keep workers connected to their employers and helps employers retain their employees.

You can find more information at https://esd.wa.gov/SharedWork.

If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch. Stay safe and take care.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore