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What should Washington workers and employers know this week?

Sept. 16, 2020

What you should know about...

COVID-19 transmission rates and statewide trends

Report shows decline in cases, reinforces benefits of social distancing and masks

The Washington State Department of Health released a statewide situation report, which reflects an overall decline in COVID-19 activity as of late August. The report cites that social distancing, limiting gathering size and wearing face coverings are working to slow the spread of the disease.  Let’s keep it up!

What you should know about...

Wildfire smoke and COVID-19

Wildfire smoke and COVID-19 are a bad mix

Wildfire smoke is hazardous to people with respiratory conditions, including COVID-19. Low air quality can aggravate symptoms and cause serious problems. The Washington State Department of Health recommends staying inside and delaying get-togethers until air quality improves.

Poor air quality likely to continue through week

High levels of fine particle pollution continue to be a hazard for most of the state. The Washington State Department of Ecology air quality map indicates unhealthy contamination statewide. The Washington Smoke Blog publishes detailed updates and forecasts on the situation. Keep an eye on air quality levels in your community and take care to stay indoors if local conditions are hazardous.

What you need to know about…

Safe Start guidance updates

Indoor fitness centers now permitted to operate in Modified Phase 1 counties

Chelan, Benton, Douglas, Franklin and Yakima counties may now hit the gym. The roster of permissible activity in Modified Phase 1 counties was expanded to include indoor fitness. Fitness centers in these counties must abide by the Phase 2 requirements. In Modified Phase 1 and Phase 2, occupancy is limited to the quotient of the square footage of the facility divided by 300 square feet per patron. A 1500-square-foot facility, for example, is allowed up to five patrons (staff and instructors not included). Large facilities in excess of 12,000 square feet must abide by the 300-square-foot rule as well as limit the number of patrons to 25% capacity.

Real estate guidance amended to expand viewings, inspections, other common activities

The number of people permitted at in-person real estate activities has expanded from three to five. This allows families and other parties to conduct walk-throughs, viewings, appraisals, and inspections. Physical distancing and cloth face coverings remain required precautions.

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 need to know about…

Unemployment benefits

Additional weekly $300 unemployment benefit payment to be paid to eligible claimants

The state's application for the Lost Wages Assistance program has been approved. ESD will start processing payments of $300 to eligible claimants for this new program on Monday, Sept. 21. Payments will be retroactive for all weeks for which the claimant was eligible, and for which funding is available from the federal government. Upon the processing date, eligible claimants will receive the funds as soon as their bank processes the payment. Refer to the Employment Security Department website for details.

Job search requirements to remain suspended through Oct. 1

The governor, with support from the Legislature, has announced that job search requirements will remain suspended through Oct. 1. The soonest that unemployment claimants must actively seek work is Oct. 4. Claimants may continue to answer “no” to the job search question on weekly claims until the suspension is lifted. Learn more on the job search requirements page.

Call the ESD claims center later in the week to reduce wait times

Monday and Tuesday busiest for the Employment Security Department claims center. Calling later in the week may yield shorter wait times. Refer to ESD.WA.GOV before you call to find FAQ about filing claims, the Lost Wages Assistance Program, returning to work, and other common topics.

What you need to know about…

Child care FAQ

I can't find child care, but I have to keep working. What can I do?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to offer paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for workers caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is also available to individuals traditionally ineligible for unemployment benefits. Loss of access to child care due to COVID-19 is a valid reason for a PUA claim.

What child care options are available in my community?

Child Care Aware of Washington operates a free statewide referral line to connect families with vacant child care slots.  Call 1-800-446-1114 or visit the website. You can also find information on DCYF Child Care Check.

Some local school districts are planning to offer child care when school opens so we recommend them as an additional source of information about child care options.

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.

What you need to know about…

Small business and community funding

Small business relief funding may be available in your community

The Economic Alliance of Snohomish County and the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce are accepting grant applications from small businesses affected by COVID-19. Federal and state relief funds are reaching small businesses through local intermediaries - check with your Associate Development Organization to find local relief programs.

Completing the census helps Washington state

Washington gets about $17 billion per year from federal programs that rely on the census to prioritize funding. Completing the census helps protect continuity of funding to vital community programs. The deadline to complete the census is Sept. 30.

What you need to know about…

Labor market information

Unemployment insurance initial claims slowing

March and April saw extraordinary volumes of initial unemployment claims. While the weekly volume of new unemployment claims remains far above pre-pandemic levels, the rate of new claims continues to gradually subside. About 10% of initial claims are among workers in the accommodation and food service sector. Review ESD's Labor Market Dashboard for detailed stats about unemployment activity.

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