(Updated 8.12.2020)

We've received hundreds of questions about COVID-19's impact on Washington employers from our webinars, conference calls and main office line. Please find the most up-to-date responses to the most frequently asked questions below.

Rebound and Recovery

Q: What's the latest on the governor's phased approach to reopening Washington?

A: On May 1, the governor introduced his phased approach to reopening Washington. Phase 1 began on Tuesday, May 5. Each phase is expected to last at least three weeks, the minimum amount of time public health experts believe is required to determine how the new level has impacted the impact of the virus. Some counties have been authorized to move on to the next phase, depending on their metrics; but there is a pause in place preventing counties to progress to the next phase indefinitely. This 4-phase chart will help employers understand their options in each phase and this guidance page gives industry-specific details for the current phases.

Q: What resources are available to help businesses re-open?

A: AWB has recently launched a website to aid businesses in the process of safely re-opening. www.ReboundandRecovery.org has a PPE Connect portal to match businesses in need of PPE with Washington manufacturers who are producing these supplies. It also has a free downloadable Business Tool Kit that is customizable for your situation. For specific industry guidance, HR and safety guidance and more, visit this page for additional links.

Q: What is the latest news about face coverings?

A: Gov. Inslee ordered the mandatory use of facemasks or face coverings, effective June 26. Read more about it here. All businesses in Washington must require face coverings of all customers and employees, effective July 7.

A. StaySafeWA - This "Stay Safe. Stay Open. Wear a Mask" campaign from a coalition of associations across the state provides downloadable videos, poster, social media content and radio spots encouraging all in Washington to wear a mask to safeguard our businesses, employees and communities.

Q: What should I do if a customer tries to enter without a face covering?

A business can refuse entry or service to any customer not wearing a facial covering but must provide reasonable accommodations to people who cannot wear one. Reasonable accommodations might be things like the following: curbside pick-up, delivery or virtual options for meetings. Encourage your customers to contact the business ahead of time for these alternative arrangements. Find more detailed information here.

Q: I need face coverings for my staff, but I don't know which ones to purchase or how to find them. Where can I find this information?

If you aren't sure which mask your business needs or how to properly wear them, this explanation for Which Mask for Which Task? (from Labor & Industries) and this Do's and Don'ts of Wearing Facemasks guide and this mask guidance for businesses from the Department of Health will help. Does your business need help sourcing facemasks or other PPE to safely reopen? We made it easier for you to connect with Washington manufacturers in our PPE Connect portal. Enter your business' needs and get matched quickly with a local source.

Q: What do I need to know about contact tracing?

A: As explained in this infographic from the Department of Health, contract tracing starts when a person is diagnosed with COVID-19. The patient will be advised to stay home except to get medical care. A trained interviewer will contact them to ask about any close contacts they have had. The response is voluntary and they will not ask for social security information or immigration status. The interviewer will then ask the close contacts to stay home for 14 days. If they become positive, the process begins again with the new patient. If not, they can resume normal activities. Here are some answers to FAQs about contact tracing.

A: The Centers for Disease Control also has these resources for contract tracing.


Financial Assistance

Q: What steps should I take if I took a Paycheck Protection Program loan and now need to file for forgiveness?

A: The Small Business Administration has released its PPP loan forgiveness form with a step-by-step guide on the top. Also, a new PPP Loan Forgiveness EZ application is now available for those who qualify with the following conditions:
  1. Are self-employed and have no employees; OR
  2. Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; OR
  3. Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.

Q: What is the latest update on the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans?

A: The deadline to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), has passed. The PPP Flexibility Act relaxed some of the terms to allow businesses more time and flexibility for loan forgiveness. 

A separate $60 billion is allotted for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The EIDL is accepting new applications at this time. All EIDL applications previously submitted are being processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Q: Where can I find the latest info for the PPP?

A: The U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program page is the best source of information.

Q: What should small businesses do if they were not receiving good customer service from their big lender?

A: Many smaller community banks and credit unions are accepting applications from new customers. Also, the new funding bill includes $60 billion for lenders with less than $50 billion in assets, giving small community banks a piece the industry has said will help them serve smaller companies.

Q: What are other options for financial assistance?

A: Please visit our resources page and look at the local loans and local grants under our financial links section.


Manufacturing


Q: I'm a manufacturer. How do I offer my facility's services to help the governor's request for Washington manufacturers to step up and replenish the supply of personal protective equipment?

A: Three options:

Unemployment, Layoffs and Furlough Advice

Q: What's the timeline for paying out existing claims?

A: On May 11, the Employment Security Department launched Operation 100%, with the goal of paying out all remaining claims by July 31, if they were submitted by May 1. There have been a significant number of false claims, so processing slowed momentarily to ensure that fraudulent claims were caught.

Q: I just received notification that a current employee filed for unemployment insurance. I think this is a mistake. What should I do?

A: The Employment Security Department is reporting a large number of fraudulent claims. Imposters are using stolen information from previous outside-source data breaches (Equifax data breach a few years ago, for example) to file claims. Please find more information and report any fraud attempts here.

Q: Where should I point my employees if they're wondering about their eligibility for unemployment benefits?

A: The Employment Security Department has this great eligibility checker on their website.

Q: What federal unemployment assistance is available for my employees?

A: The federal government provided a temporary Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) of $600 a week* for any worker eligible for state or federal unemployment compensation (UC) benefits through July 31, 2020. The FPUC will be paid in addition to and at the same time (but not necessarily in the same check) as regular state or federal UC benefits. *This benefit has now expired, but there may be another compensation plan in forthcoming legislation.

Q: What changed with unemployment benefits as of 4/18/2020?

A: The CARES Act opened up Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to provide additional unemployment benefits for self-employed workers. Go to the Employment Securities Department's website for more information.

Q: What's the difference between a temporary layoff and a furlough?

A: Temporary layoffs are when employers let employees go due to reductions in force. Employers do not have to rehire those employees. Furloughs are a form of temporary layoff that may consist of a complete stoppage of work or reduced work hours for a specific period. For example, a reduction of one day a week for a year.

Q: What will happen to my employees if I go out of business due to impacts from COVID-19?

A: If you lay off employees due to permanent closure, they can apply for unemployment benefits. The Employment Security Department determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Layoff assistance may be available for businesses facing major layoffs. Click here for more information on Layoff Assistance from ESD.

Q: What is "Shared Work" and how can it help my employees?

A: "Shared Work" is a voluntary business sustainability program that provides flexibility to retain employees at reduced hours. This short video explains it well. Learn more and apply here.


Gig Economy

Q: Are independent contractors and gig workers like Uber and Lyft drivers eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program?

A: Yes. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and self-employed individuals are all eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Q: Are gig workers, contractors, and self-employed individuals eligible for unemployment insurance?

A: Yes, the CARES Act expands unemployment benefits to cover more workers including self-employed and independent contractors, like gig workers and Uber drivers, who do not usually qualify for unemployment.


Employer Advice

Q: What simple, step-by-step advice should I follow to save costs right now?

A: The Washington Small Business Development Center has this great survival strategy list (PDF).


Essential vs Non-Essential Businesses

Q: What are the current guidelines for business closures and who does it apply to?

A: According to Stay Home, Stay Healthy -  “Employment in essential business services means an essential employee performing work for an essential business as identified in the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” list.
Read more on our blog.

Q: If my business is considered non-essential, do I have to shut down in Phase 1?

A: Yes, unless you and your employees can work from home. Phased re-openings have begun in different counties across the state. Industry-specific guidance and more reopening resources can be found here.

Q: What are the registration requirements for those deemed essential?

A: There is no need to register for workers or businesses that are deemed essential. - Dept. of Commerce

Q: What makes a business classified as essential?

A: The full list of sectors and workers deemed essential is available here.


Q: Do essential companies' staff need travel permits?

A: No permits are needed to travel to and from essential business locations. - Dept. of Commerce

Q: Where do I go to report violators of the Safe Start order?

A: To report an individual, call your local law enforcement agency. (Do not call 911.) To report a business you feel is in violation of this order, please carefully review the information first and then complete this form.


Property Management

Q: Where can landlords make claims for rent reductions given to corporate tenants?

A: Landlords can apply for the EIDL to cover lost rents regardless of who the tenants are. Also, please see this guide for further resources for housing providers.


Services / Programs

Q: Where can I find information on the coronavirus and COVID-19 resources in multiple languages?

A: Multilingual resources - Department of Health Multilingual Fact Sheet


Supply chain

Q: Will this affect grocery stores and food availability?

A: The following excerpt is from the governor’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers - "Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, and other retail that sells food and beverage products, including but not limited to Grocery stores, Corner stores and convenience stores, including liquor stores that sell food, Farmers’ markets, Food banks, Farm and produce stands, Supermarkets, Similar food retail establishments, Big box stores that sell groceries and essentials."


Emergency Response Procedures

Q: Where can I find templates for creating an emergency management plan for my business?

A: The Department of Commerce has a resources page here: http://startup.choosewashingtonstate.com/links/crisis/covid-19-resources/

Q: How is the COVID virus being addressed in the homeless community?

A: Information on emergency housing grants and grantee guidance responding to the COVID-19 pandemic can be accessed from the Washington State Department of Commerce website here: https://www.commerce.wa.gov/covid-19-homeless-services/


Health Facts

Q: Where can I find state-approved safe worker signage for my essential business?

A: You can find more helpful signage, floor stickers and more in the free downloadable Business Tool Kit on the Rebound and Recovery website. In addition, the state's official coronavirus website has this great collection of free printable posters and web art.

Q: As an employer, am I allowed to check the temperature of an employee before allowing them to begin work?

A: The new EEOC guidelines (and formerly ADA rules after H1N1) allow for temperature checks. Based on a few conversations, companies are (1) requiring a physician's note and (2) sanitizing the plant after a person has tested positive or come in close contact with a person testing positive. Any employees who have been in close contact are being asked to self-quarantine.

Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website for a full list of resources regarding employer anti-discrimination awareness. Find more safety, health, and legal resource links on AWB's Rebound and Recovery resource page.

Q: What should I tell an employee if they have been in contact with a potentially sick individual?

A: The Washington State Department of Health has this guide for anyone who thinks they might be infected.

Q: If my employee reports to me that he/she got infected, what should I do? Should I call the city, county, or state, or CDC? Should I vacate the workplace?

A: Here is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidance for steps to take if you are sick with COVID-19 or think you may be infected with coronavirus. - https://coronavirus.wa.gov/

Q: What areas in the U.S. are most impacted by COVID-19 and how does Washington state compare to others in number of cases and response, including number of tests conducted?

A: Daily statistics are provided by the Department of Health (DOH) or view statewide statistics on a map. - https://coronavirus.wa.gov/

A: You can also view an extensive set of research and reports here.

Q: How do we protect our workforce and reduce COVID-19 spreading?

A: CDC guidance to help families, employers, schools and others stop the spread of COVID-19 (pdf) - https://coronavirus.wa.gov/

A: (3/24/2020) The Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

A: If your business is in the process of re-opening safely, please view this thorough guide, find some specifics about safety practices for critical infrastructure workers. There is also reopening guidance and guidance to help businesses and workplaces plan, prepare and respond to COVID-19.

A: Beginning June 8th, masks are required in the workplace. This guide can help you determine which mask is appropriate for which task. If you would like help finding a Washington state manufacturer of masks or other necessary PPE for your business, please fill out the PPE Connect form.

We encourage you to visit the Department of Health’s coronavirus website and the CDC's coronavirus website for more information.

Q: What are the current guidelines for COVID-19 isolation?

A: From the Department of Health: Home Isolation Guidance (PDF)

Q: What resources are available to encourage mental health during this time?

A: The CDC has posted information on Taking Care of Your Emotional Health, a fact sheet on Coping with Disaster and how to Cope with Stress (with reference phone numbers).


A: Rehab4Addiction has an article about guarding mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A: Shine is offering a mental health tool kit for COVID-19 anxiety.

A: King County Behavioral Health: COVID-19 resources for families and children


Health Care Coverage

Q: What health insurance can employees get if they're laid off? Our company insurance only covers full-time workers.

A: Job loss may be an event that qualifies for a special enrollment period. Find details at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.


Timeline

Q: Any updates on the 2020 cruise ship season?

A: The Port of Seattle posts all updates for the 2020 cruise season here.