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Nov. 18, 2020

The Business and Workers update is a weekly newsletter providing news and information to help businesses and workers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The information is compiled by the state Economic Resiliency Team (ERT), part of the Joint Information Center.


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What should Washington workers and employers know this week?

Nov. 18, 2020

On Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a four-week statewide set of restrictions in response to the recent rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in Washington and across the country.

The new restrictions come as Washington sees consistent increasing daily case counts, with over 2,000 cases a day over the weekend and average cases in the state doubling over the past two weeks.

Safe Start Plan updates

The restrictions are statewide and most took effect Monday, Nov. 16 at 11:59 p.m. The modified restrictions of restaurants took effect today, Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 12:01 a.m. These will remain in effect until at least Monday, Dec.14. Restrictions include:

  • Indoor gatherings with people outside the household are prohibited unless individuals have been in quarantine 14 days prior to the gathering, or have quarantined for seven days prior and have a negative COVID-19 test.
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.
  • In-store retail, grocery stores and personal services limited to 25% of occupancy.
  • Closure of indoor service at restaurants and bars, with outdoor dining limited to table sizes of 5 or fewer.
  • Religious services limited to 25% occupancy or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer. Wedding and funeral receptions prohibited indoors.
  • Fitness facilities and gyms, bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums and movie theaters are closed for indoor services.

You can read the governor’s announcement here.

The full proclamation is available here.

The full guidance page is available here.

Questions about the Safe Start plan?

Ask questions about workplace safety, Safe Start phases, relief programs, paid sick leave, unemployment and more. Our Business Response Center is standing by to respond.

Submit your question here.

What you should know about…

Resources for small businesses

New round of financial assistance coming soon

The governor announced on Sunday he is authorizing additional financial support to help businesses most likely to be impacted by these newest round of restrictions.

Currently, the state department of Commerce is working on a new round of $20 million in Working Washington emergency grants. Information about eligibility and maximum grant amounts will be available within the next two weeks. As a reminder, in the first two rounds of grants, maximum awards were $10,000. Details will be posted to Commerce’s COVID-19 business page as soon as applications are ready.

Commerce is also using an additional $30 million in federal CARES Act funds to leverage additional financing from private investors and create a loan program. The loans would provide favorable terms for businesses struggling to access traditional financing. These loans will serve as a bridge for small- and medium-size businesses toward a sustainable recovery. This is a new program that will take some time to establish. Commerce will provide details in the coming weeks about when loans will be available.

The state is also assessing if any additional CARES Act funding remains and could be distributed to businesses before the funds expire on Dec. 31.

We know this is an incredibly challenging and uncertain time for small business owners and their employees. If you haven’t already checked, there may be resources available from your county or through the U.S. Small Business Administration. In addition, the Small Business Development Center operated by the SBA and Washington State University is an incredible resource to help you navigate available SBA loans and provide you with no-cost business consulting to help you retool or update your business plan.

Free training courses for small business owners and entrepreneurs

Gov. Inslee has proclaimed November Global Entrepreneurship Month (GEM) in Washington state. To celebrate, the state department of Commerce ahs created nearly 50 live and on-demand recorded events that will explore the idea of starting a new business, pivoting an existing one, or rebuilding and restarting a business that had to close or start anew.

Topics range from sourcing capital and guerilla marketing, to exports, e-commerce and pivot or exit strategies. Each session is hosted by experts in their respective fields, and there is no cost to participants. Sessions are filling up fast, so you want to make sure you register for the live classes. Watch the on-demand series here.

Webinars on unemployment insurance, returning to work, business relief and more

State agencies have partnered to bring monthly webinars presenting information specific to Washington small businesses. Webinars feature brief presentations from state and federal partners and open-mic Q&A time. Topics include unemployment insurance, returning employees to work, Small Business Administration (SBA) relief funding, workplace safety, contracting with the state, paid family and medical leave and other timely topics. Mark your calendar. The next webinar will be held on Nov. 18 at 10 a.m.   A Spanish version of this webinar will be held on Dec. 2 at 10 a.m.

SharedWork helps employers retain their workers during tough times

Are you wondering how to retain your trained, skilled workforce during tough times? Consider Washington's nationally recognized SharedWork Program. You may be eligible to participate. SharedWork is a voluntary business sustainability program that provides flexibility to retain employees at reduced hours. The program allows employers to reduce hours by as much as 50%, while their employees collect partial benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages.

To learn more, contact the local WorkSource Business Services in your area or call a SharedWork specialist at 800-752-2500. Call volumes are high and you will find all the information online at www.esd.wa.gov/sharedwork.

What you should know about…

Worker safety

L&I has resources to help you keep your workers and customers safe

L&I offers free consultations to help employers find and fix workplace safety and health issues. Employers who want assistance can request an L&I safety consultation online. It’s free and confidential.

L&I has developed a template that employers can use to meet requirements to train employees about the coronavirus. It covers numerous topics, including symptoms, transmission, face coverings and worker rights. The training is available online in English and Spanish.

The nature of the outbreak changes daily so it’s important to have the most current information. L&I has a COVID-19 webpage, and there’s important information on the Department of Health and the state Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) sites.

Information is the best resource to keep workers and the public as safe as possible. L&I urges employers to stay informed and take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.

What you should know about...

Unemployment insurance

The governor, with support from the Legislature, has announced that job search requirements will remain suspended through Dec. 7. This means the soonest claimants will be required to actively seek work is the week of Dec. 13. For more information, see the alert about Gov. Inslee’s order to protect public health.


Reminder: New phone hours for the Employment Security Claims Center

The Employment Security Department has changed its unemployment claims center phone hours so it can process claims and get eligible claimants their payments faster. Read the full announcement

We’ve changed our unemployment claims center phone hours for inbound calls, to process claims and get eligible claimants their payments faster.

  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday – Friday, phones will be open for inbound calls.
  • Sunday – Tuesday are our busiest days both online and on the phones. If you can’t get through, try calling or logging on later in the week. Find more tips for contacting us on our help page.
  • The fastest and easiest way to submit weekly claims is using eServices, but claimants can submit weekly claims using our automated phone system, 12:01 a.m. Sunday to 4 p.m. Friday.

NOTE: As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the claims center is experiencing an extremely high claims call volume and wait times to speak with an agent are long. People with hearing or speech disabilities may dial 711 to be connected to a Washington Relay Service operator.

The Employment Security Department is sharing the new tips to avoid delays page for new applicants/weekly claim filers to address common issues, like clarifying the “able and available question,” that cause delays.

Stress and anxiety are normal. Talk it out!

The pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on our mental health. It's normal to feel anxiety and it's healthy to talk it out. Try calling Washington Listens - it's a non-clinical support line staffed by specialists ready to lend an ear. Call 1 (833) 681-0211.

Stay connected


About Commerce

Commerce works with local governments, businesses, community-based organizations and tribes to strengthen communities. The department’s diverse portfolio of more than 100 programs and effective public and private partnerships promote sustainable community and economic development to help all Washingtonians thrive. For more information, visit http://www.commerce.wa.gov. For information on locating or expanding a business in Washington, visit choosewashingtonstate.com.

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