Submitted by Washington State Department of Commerce
State agencies and partners are working to swiftly respond to the economic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Washington state. Disruptions to workers and small businesses are serious, as are disruptions in the global supply chain for larger manufacturers.
On March 18, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the launch of the Economic Retention, Resilience and Recovery effort to help business and workers through this difficult economic situation.
Commerce Director Lisa Brown and Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzi LeVine are leading the state’s efforts in this area and have already begun working on a plan.
Commerce and ESD are working with other state partners to update a statewide portal to rapidly provide up-to-date information on resources and services available to support businesses and workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses and workers can go to coronavirus.wa.gov to access these sources in one place.
The U.S. Small Business Administration approved Gov. Inslee’s request for a disaster declaration, and all counties in Washington state are now eligible for assistance. This unlocks low-interest loans that will help small businesses meet their financial obligations during this difficult time.
Up to $5 million of in the Governor’s Working Washington Fund will be made available as micro-grants to small businesses across the state to help prevent closure due to COVID-19. Commerce will distribute these funds. Check coronavirus.wa.gov for updates on the funding timeline and follow Commerce on Twitter @WAStateCommerce for an announcement when funds are available.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we know they are feeling real pain right now. Public health is our state’s number one priority, and we are working quickly at the local, regional and federal level to bring help to businesses hit hard by the economic fallout of this outbreak,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “These are initial steps. More information and more help is on the way.”
For businesses that need some temporary tax relief, Gov. Inslee has given the Department of Revenue authority to waive interest, fees, and due dates for a broad range of taxes, including property tax exemptions, business license renewals and others. Visit the DOR website for full information.
Washingtonians are turning to unemployment insurance, many for the first time, to provide them the financial stability they need. This has created a tremendous spike in demand for this program. ESD is pulling out all the stops to rapidly expand its capacity during these unprecedented times, including:
- Hiring more than 60 new staff for its claim center operations.
- Helping people navigate the state’s unemployment Insurance system by posting more information on ESD’s website and social media channels.
- Extending its service hours to seven days a week and extending hours per day.
- Reassigning staff from other parts of the agency to provide more customer service.
- Deploying staff to answer general questions from the public.
“Many Washington workers are living paycheck to paycheck and need income support now,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “Unemployment insurance will play a critical role in reducing the financial hardship many families are feeling at this time, as well as support the larger economy through increased consumer spending,” she said.