What should Washington workers and employers know this week?

Editors Note: 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. Below is the newsletter for July 15. 

What you need to know about…

Safe Start Updates

 

Businesses must require face coverings of customers

As of July 7, businesses must require all customers and visitors to wear a face covering and post signage about the required use of face coverings. Businesses must also post signage strongly encouraging customers and clients to wear cloth face coverings. Some exceptions are made for individuals with medical conditions or disabilities that complicate the use of face coverings.

 

Safe Start county advancements remain paused

On July 2, the Department of Health announced a pause on advancing counties from their current Safe Start phase. That pause remains in effect - no counties have advanced within the Safe Start program and will not until the pause is lifted. Find your county's Safe Start phase and permissible activities within each phase on the Washington State Coronavirus Response website. During Governor Inslee's July 14 press conference, it was announced that advancements will be paused through July 28.

 

New business activity guidance issued by the Office of the Governor

Several business activity guidance documents have been updated to reflect changes in understanding of the spread of COVID-19. Live entertainment and bar service were recently discontinued in restaurants and bars. Some construction workers from out-of-state may be subject to quarantine or testing. Film production and agriculture are subject to amended rules related to face coverings, distancing and sanitation.

 

Counties under Safe Start Modified Phase 1 status may have unique rules

While the "What's Open in Each Phase" page on the State's COVID-19 response website generally summarizes permissible activities in each phase, Modified Phase 1 conditions are a little different in each applicable county. Refer to specific regulations issued for Yakima County, Benton-Franklin counties and Chelan-Douglas counties if you belong to a community under Modified Phase 1.

 

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…

Virus activity within Washington state

 

Rate of newly-diagnosed cases increasing rapidly

From June 8 to July 8, the rate of newly-diagnosed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents nearly doubled. In that month, the rate increased from 56.8 to 111.9. The state goal is a figure under 25. In the last two weeks, 8,442 new cases were discovered. While testing is steadily increasing, the rate of new cases exceeds the rate of increase in testing. This dramatic increase in new cases has delayed reopening activity under the Safe Start plan.

 

Yakima County virus activity has declined since mask mandate enacted

Shown during Governor Inslee's July 14 press conference, statistics from Yakima County indicate that the rate of newly-diagnosed cases and test positivity rate have both reduced since a local mask mandate was instituted on June 26.

 

"We are seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 activity in many states and increased cases here in Washington. It’s incredibly important that everyone does their part to slow down transmission by limiting or changing travel plans."

Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington State Health Office and Chief Science Officer

 

 

What you need to know about…

Small Business Support

 

SBA funding and programs remain active to support small businesses

While the U.S. Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program concluded last weekend, several other federal small business relief programs remain active. Among them is the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to offer small businesses forgivable loans for use on payroll and some operational costs. The PPP application window was recently extended through Aug. 8, and over $100 billion in funding is still available in the program's budget. Refer to the U.S. Small Business Administration's website for information on active small business supports.

 

Federal CARES Act funding reaching Washington small businesses

The Washington State Department of Commerce has helped to allocate federal CARES Act funds to local governments statewide, and those funds are now beginning to reach small businesses in the form of grants and relief programs. The City of Snoqualmie has established a grant program to support small, locally-owned businesses. A relief program in Spokane County has been established for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The City of Pasco is making available relief grants of up to $30,000 for small businesses. Refer to your county economic development organization website for information on relief programs within your community.

 

Small business webinars review available relief and resources

This webinar series reviews information specific to Washington small businesses. A panel of state and federal partners is present to respond to live Q&A regarding unemployment insurance, returning employees to the workplace, relief funding, workplace safety measures and other topics important to employers. The next webinars will be held on July 16 at 1:30 p.m. and July 21 at 9:30 a.m., and Spanish-language webinars will be held on July 28 at 5:30 p.m. and July 30 at 8:30 a.m.

 

What you need to know about…

Unemployment

 

ESD claims center continues to focus on outbound calls through July 19

Inbound calls to the Employment Security Department claims center will continued to be limited through July 19 as agents prioritize outbound calls to resolve complex issues for the longest-waiting customers. Customers can still submit weekly claims online or use the automated telephone system to file a weekly claim at 800-318-8400. Customers may also call the questions hotline for general unemployment questions unrelated to specific claims at 833-572-8400. Visit ESD's FAQ page for answers to common questions about returning to work.

 

National Hire a Veteran Day virtual job fair to be held on July 23

On July 23, the Employment Security Department (ESD) will host a National Hire a Veteran Day virtual job fair in collaboration with Worksource Washington and Washington State YesVets. Job seekers can engage with over 40 companies and government agencies looking to hire veterans and chat live with recruiters, all at no cost. Job seekers may register here, and interested employers may contact YesVets to inquire about participation.

 

What you need to know about…

Worker's Rights

 

Workers are protected from discrimination for raising safety complaints

Workers in Washington who refuse to perform unsafe job duties may be protected from discrimination under Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA). Workers who are retaliated against for filing a complaint, or for bringing up safety concerns to their employer, may file a complaint. Workers that wish to report workplace safety or Safe Start violations may notify the Department of Labor & Industries directly at 1-800-423-7233.

 

Leave is available to sick workers or those caring for a sick family member

Community spread of COVID-19 is increasing statewide. Businesses and workers may wish to prepare for the possibility of illness. Paid Family and Medical Leave is available to workers that require time off to care for themselves or a family member due to a qualifying event, such as a serious health condition (including COVID-19). Workers may use accrued paid sick leave if they are sick, if they are caring for a qualified family member who is sick, if their child’s day care or school is closed for COVID-19 reasons and they need to provide care, or if their workplace is closed by a public official in connection with COVID-19 and the employment relationship isn’t terminated through a layoff. Additionally, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide employees with additional paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. In cases of documented or probably workplace COVID-19 exposure, affected workers may be eligible for worker's compensation.

 

 

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