Washington State Department of Commerce — Business & Worker Update

FEB. 10,  2021

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.

What you should know about…

COVID-19 Response

The importance of testing

Vaccine may be in the spotlight right now, and while it’s a crucial tool to eventually help us overcome the pandemic, it’s not the only tool we should be using. We are still relying on things like wearing masks and getting tested to ensure our success in overcoming this pandemic, and we’ll need to keep doing so over the next few months.

Testing is a critical and essential part of the overall COVID-19 response. Identifying and isolating people who have COVID-19, and quarantining those exposed to the virus, are necessary to understanding, responding to, and stopping the spread of infection. Assuring equitable and widespread access to testing with rapid turnaround times for results remains a priority. For us to successfully stop the spread of the virus, it is critical for people to get tested when they have symptoms or when they have been exposed to someone suspected of having COVID-19.

Testing remains a priority. Please, encourage your family and friends to get tested if they’ve been exposed, or if they have symptoms. For more information about testing in Washington state see the state Department of Health’s (DOH) testing page, their updated statewide testing strategy and their testing location resources.

More than 25,000 get COVID-19 vaccine at state’s mass vaccination sites

Vaccination numbers continue to steadily increase at the state’s mass vaccination sites. DOH is pleased to announce registration is opening for week three.

Thanks to the hard work of DOH, the Washington National Guard and local and private sector partners, as of Feb. 5, 25,416 people received their COVID-19 vaccine at mass vaccination sites, including:

  • 6,021 in Spokane
  • 6,702 in Ridgefield
  • 5,614 in Wenatchee
  • 7,079 in Kennewick

The four sites opened on Jan. 26. The goal of mass vaccination sites is to increase access to vaccine across the state, ensure our plans are equitable, and protect those most at risk.

To make an appointment for next week, you must first confirm you’re eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1A or 1B-1 (PDF) using the Phase Finder tool. Phase Finder does not make you an appointment. Once confirmed through Phase Finder, you can make an appointment at one of the mass vaccination sites. Please note, hours and registration information is different for each location.

What you should know about…

The 2021 Washington State Legislative Session

State Legislature is likely to soon pass additional aid for small businesses

Washington State Legislature House Bill 1368 is the early-action bill that would provide $240 million for a new round of Working Washington business grants for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The legislation would allocate some of this aid to businesses temporarily forced to fully closed due to COVID-19 impacts, and to businesses that have not closed but have had overwhelming impact from the COVID recession. The bill has passed the House and is currently being considered in the Senate. Assistant Director Chris Green of Commerce’s Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness provided an update on details of the bill during a recent interview with the Association of Washington Business.

What you should know about….

Resources for small businesses

Washington Requirements and Resources webinar for businesses start-ups

The Washington Small Business Liaison Team is launching a new training opportunity for people starting a business. The free, one hour webinar includes information about business registration and licensing, other regulatory requirements and resources for further assistance. The webinar is scheduled for March 2 at 9 a.m. Click here for more information and to register online or call 800-917-0043.

New resource for information and technical assistance for small businesses

A new website created by the Washington State Small Business Recovery Working Group aims to simplify and supplement details provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration and provide current information on available relief programs for Washington’s small businesses and eligible non-profits, as well as the organizations that assist them.

The goal is to help as many Washington small businesses and non-profits as possible access the help they need. Information will be added and updated as new guidance is released and as new resources become available.

SBA takes steps to improve First Draw Paycheck Protection Program loan review

The U.S. Small Business Administration is taking steps to improve the First Draw Paycheck Protection Program loan review so that small businesses have as much time as possible to access much needed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds.

The SBA is working in close partnership with the new federal administration to further leverage its resource partner network and expand on multilingual access and outreach about the PPP. Updated PPP information, including forms, guidance and resources is at: www.sba.gov/ppp and www.treasury.gov/cares.

What you should know about….

Unemployment

Unemployment insurance bill signing

Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature prioritized critical relief and support for Washington’s employers and unemployed workers by signing Senate Bill 5061. This is the first bill Inslee has signed into law this session, indicating just how important it is to the economic health of our state.

Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) has begun to provide tax relief to employers before their next payment is due in April and will communicate directly with employers, so they have the information they need for their 2021 tax payments. For unemployed workers, ESD will be ready to deliver the new, higher minimum weekly benefit amount as soon as it takes effect on July 1, 2021.

With passage of the ESSB 5061, SharedWork benefits paid or reimbursed by the federal government are not charged to experience rating accounts of employers or to employers who are liable for payments in lieu of contributions. Because of this bill, ESD will not charge any amount of SharedWork benefits that are paid or reimbursed by the federal government. Under the Continued Assistance Act, full federal funding for SharedWork benefits lasts until the week ending March 13, 2021.

Initial regular unemployment claims decreased while continued claims increased during week of Jan. 24 – 30

During the week ending on Jan. 30, there were 16,102 initial regular unemployment claims (down 2.2% from the prior week) and 489,741 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (up 1.6% from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to ESD. In the week ending Jan. 30, ESD paid out over $268 million for 314,546 individual claims. Since the crisis began in March, ESD has paid more than $14.3 billion in benefits to over a million Washingtonians. Read the entire press release.

Note: Detailed claims data and charts by county, industry and occupation are included on a monthly basis on ESD news releases. You can find detailed claims data anytime on the ESD website.

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