Dear friends and neighbors,
We’ve had a busy but successful few weeks, and I’ve been thrilled to see so many Washingtonians become first-time participants here at the legislature – either by giving public testimony remotely, submitting written testimony, or scheduling meetings with me over Zoom – now that the options to call in from home or during breaks at work have made it so much more possible to get involved.
As we embark on our fourth week of the 2021 legislative session, I’m eager to share with you the progress of some of my bills, as well as the critical action taken by the legislature to get crucial unemployment insurance relief to local businesses all over the state. I’ve also included some local information about the COVID-19 vaccine in our region.
Four successful bill hearings
Four of my bills have been up for a public hearing since my last e-newsletter update.
- SB 5149 – funding foundational public health services. Our state learned, after the coronavirus pandemic struck, that our public health system was critically underfunded. It needs adequate funding to be able to prevent and respond to public health emergencies like the one we’re in. This bill would use a “covered lives assessment” on health insurance companies to provide $200 million in funding to our state’s public health infrastructure over the next four years.
- SB 5322 – prohibiting dual enrollment between school employees; benefits board and public employees; benefits board programs. The current enrollment system allows employees to mix and match coverage, which is extremely hard on employers to administer. This bill clarifies that folks must pick from one or the other, so that employers won’t have to manage and price hundreds of enrollment options.
- SB 5326 – concerning health and pension benefits for school bus drivers employed by private nongovernmental entities. A majority of the coverage provided doesn’t cover many necessary tests and treatment costs. This is hard on employees and their families. Bus drivers deserve benefits, and this would help ensure they get that coverage.
- SB 5097 – expanding coverage of the paid family and medical leave program. Paid family and medical leave has been a lifeline for many Washington families in 2020, but the law previously didn’t go far enough to protect folks’ jobs, include part-time workers, or cover specific families. This bill expands the definition of “family member,” which would help promote equity and protect caretakers.
Passed: $1.7 billion in unemployment insurance relief
Last week, the Senate passed a huge COVID relief bill (SB 5061) that would provide $1.7 billion in relief and ease the burden of unemployment insurance on Washington businesses – and by extension, Washington families. And, as vice chair of Ways and Means, I can tell you that SB 5061 would also help us rebuild our economy and bring our unemployment insurance trust fund back to full strength.
When this crisis began, we had roughly $4.7 billion in the state unemployment insurance trust fund. Because of that, we were able to provide critical economic support to Washington workers and businesses throughout this public health emergency. When we get 5061 signed into law, the projected 2025 trust fund balance will become $3.2 billion.
It takes a common-sense, careful approach that smooths out the automatic increased unemployment insurance rates needed to rebuild our trust fund for future emergencies. By offering an immediate $920 million reduction in taxes for our businesses – which will grow to $1.7 billion in total tax relief over 4 years – it would provide substantial relief to Washington businesses while helping us regain that strong and healthy trust fund.
I was happy to vote yes on this bill and send it to the House – and am pleased to report that my House colleagues passed it last night. Next stop? The governor’s desk.
COVID Vaccine FAQ
Public health experts in Snohomish County have been working around the clock to administer the vaccine to those who want and need it as quickly as possible. Snohomish Health District is following state and federal guidance to help connect our at-risk neighbors – like healthcare workers and older adults – with the vaccine.
Right now, our county is administering the vaccine to folks in Phase 1a and Phase 1b1. You can find more information – and determine which phase you’re in – by visiting www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.
As a reminder: my office is as available to you as ever. Send me an email at June.Robinson@leg.wa.gov, or give me a call at (360) 786-7674. Let’s set up a Zoom meeting or connect in writing. I’d love to hear from you, I and look forward to learning more about your priorities in this upcoming year. You can also follow me on Facebook for regular updates.
My work in Olympia is always informed by the voices of my neighbors, and I’m eager to hear yours.