As we approach the holidays, I hope you are staying healthy and safe. I know we all want to see our family and friends. But with COVID numbers increasing dramatically in Washington, we are seeing more cases now than we did at the peak this spring. Now is a critical time for us to stop the spread.
Each of us can make a difference. To keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and to keep our hospital system from being overwhelmed, we need to hold fewer, shorter, smaller social gatherings. Shrinking your social circle and skipping indoor gatherings can help. Staying home is still safest. If you do go out, keep it quick, keep your distance and wear a mask. Do your recreation and business locally to avoid spreading the virus across county lines. Limit the number of people outside your household that you gather with—we can all get through this season by caring for each other.
Below, you can find information about the assistance that the Employment Security Department is providing for those who are facing job loss in the wake of the new pandemic restrictions on businesses, as well as information about the state’s aid for small businesses.
Unemployment Insurance Updates
Whether you have to restart your unemployment insurance claim or file a new one, the Employment Security Department (ESD) is ready to help.
You may recall that in the first months of the pandemic, the ESD was overwhelmed with claims, which resulted in some delays in benefits that really hurt thousands of workers and their families. Since then, ESD has hired and trained over 1,200 new team members, and improved anti-fraud and cybersecurity measures. They have also expanded phone service hours and added support for people with limited English proficiency.
I’m hoping that these changes will enable the Department to respond more smoothly to increased unemployment insurance claims. If your job will be affected by the new restrictions, you can find information about starting a new unemployment insurance claim, or about re-starting a previous claim, on the ESD website. And as always, if you have a problem with a state agency like ESD, don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know what has happened so I can try to help.
Aid for Businesses
If you own or work for a small business that’s struggling, more aid is on the way. The state is allocating $135 million of federal CARES Act funding for an immediate relief package. This includes $50 million in direct grants to small businesses, $30 million in business loans, and $20 million in rental assistance, among other elements. Applications for this program are not yet open, but they will be soon. You can find more information on the Washington Department of Commerce’s website.
Help for Immigrants
If you’re an immigrant experiencing hard times because of COVID-19, and you aren’t eligible for federal financial relief or unemployment insurance, the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund can help. It can provide a $1,000 one-time direct payment (up to $3,000 per household).
Learn more and apply online here or by calling 1-844-724-3737. Apply BEFORE Dec. 6, 2020.
Additional resources for Spanish-speakers can be found at the website of the Senate Members of Color Caucus here.
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. And despite this awful pandemic, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Senator Karen Keiser
Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore