Dear Friends and Neighbors of the 46th Legislative District,
A big thanks to all of you who are taking to heart social distancing and the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” initiative that Governor Inslee has put in place to prevent unnecessary deaths. I know these efforts have caused much stress, strain, heartache and fear but as tough as things have been for us here in our Washington, things have gotten worse in other parts of the country that were not acting as decisively early in the crisis. The evidence is that our efforts are beginning to work. Let try to pull together as a community to get us to the other side of this crisis.
And, to our health care professionals at every level, for all that you have done and are doing: Thank you. Your efforts are heroic and they will never be forgotten. Our community thanks you.
I wanted to bring to your attention more resources that I hope will help lessen some of the financial strain you’re facing, and help some of your neighbors who are in need.
The Employment Security Department has been receiving record numbers of new claims for unemployment insurance. At the same time, they are experiencing extremely high numbers of phone calls and emails. Additionally, we know many people have questions about the recent federal stimulus package and the enhancements to eligibility and available benefits for individuals. To address your questions and to find out more information, please do not call their toll-free numbers first. Instead, please visit their website at esd.wa.gov. There you can sign up for their action alerts to receive the most recent information possible about these benefits, view their Frequently Asked Questions for Workers and for Businesses and use their checklist before applying for benefits. Again, please do not call their toll-free numbers for information. Those need to be reserved for individuals who need assistance with their claims. Instead, check their website. It has answers to most questions you may have.
Many people are worried that they won’t be paid because they can’s get through the overloaded system.
ESD is experiencing unprecedented demand and, while hundreds of thousands have successfully filed new claims related to the COVID-19 crisis, many others have not yet been able to complete their application process. Benefits will be paid from the time people separated from their job or otherwise became eligible under the CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.
People concerned that they will miss out on the new CARES Act benefits during the time it takes to get the system updated:
The federal CARES Act expands unemployment assistance to those not currently eligible who have been impacted by COVID-19, and provides an additional $600 per week to all unemployment recipients through July 31, 2020. ESD is working hard to have its systems updated to reflect these changes by mid-April. The agency will then be able to make retroactive payments for both the weekly benefit amount owed as well as the additional $600 per week.
ESD Video on the CARES Act:
This video from ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine includes a lot of great information about the CARES Act and what it will do for Washingtonians.
Statewide Food Relief Fund
As the Seattle Times reported this week, a growing number of people are using food banks — and the food banks need our help meeting that demand. You can read that full article here.
Governor Jay Inslee has announced a new statewide food fund to help out. You can learn more about that program here.
Special enrollment health insurance on the Exchange
In response to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Washington state, the Health Benefit is extending the special enrollment period for uninsured individuals by an additional 30 days.
The original special enrollment period started March 10, 2020 and was scheduled to end April 8, 2020. It will now continue through May 8, 2020.
For more health coverage information related to COVID-19 (including how households impacted by loss of coverage, job loss, and/or loss of income can access no or lost cost coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder) please visit: https://www.wahbexchange.org/coronavirus-faqs/.
The pandemic has created many new civil legal needs in Washington. Legal aid programs are ready to help low-income people and displaced workers affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Find free resources to address your legal issue:
For general information and assistance:
- Go to Northwest Justice Project’s Know Your Rights Guide to COVID-19 Find current information on how the pandemic is impacting the court system, housing payments, public benefits, employment, insurance, debt, student loans, consumer protection, and more. The page is on org, which provides legal information and resources on many types of civil legal problems, forms and instructions for self-representation, and referral information on free legal aid services across Washington.
- Call the CLEAR statewide hotline Depending on eligibility and type of problem, you can speak directly to a Northwest Justice Project (NJP) advocate to receive telephonic advice and assistance, limited services (i.e. negotiation or document preparation), and/or referral to an NJP regional office or other legal aid attorney.
- Outside of King County, call 1-888-201-1014 toll-free (weekdays between 9:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.)
- In King County, call 2-1-1 to be referred to the appropriate legal aid provider
- Seniors (age 60 and over) statewide can also call 1-888-387-7111
For help with unemployment benefits or paid family and medical leave:
- Contact the Unemployment Law Project (ULP) If you have been denied benefits, or have questions about your eligibility due to layoffs, reduced hours, or illness, ULP can provide free advice and representation over the phone and in multiple languages.
- Call 206-441-9178 or toll-free at 1-888-441-9178
- Watch a Q&A webinar on COVID-19 and unemployment
For local aid with housing, domestic violence, debt, veterans and elder care, and more:
- Connect with your area pro bono program Attorneys continue to volunteer their services remotely, providing free clinics, advice and counsel, and referrals, through 16 local legal aid programs around the state. See the Washington State Pro Bono Council roster for service areas and contact information, or call CLEAR.
Resources for Small Businesses
There are a variety of resources available for small businesses from both the state and federal government, in the form of emergency grants, loans, debt relief and more. Our staff put together a comprehensive list of these resources that you can find here.
Washington’s Coronavirus Website
As a reminder, Washington’s best resource for accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus pandemic is the coronavirus website. I urge you to visit this website if you haven’t yet had a chance to do so.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email or phone. While my staff and I are practicing social distancing and working from home, we are monitoring calls that come into our Olympia office line: 360-786-7690.
Please do what you can to help one another and stay safe.