June 29, 2020
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Ponderay Newsprint shuts down paper mill, dealing major blow to northeast Washington economy

The Ponderay Newsprint Co. has shut down its paper mill in Usk indefinitely. The mill, which opened in 1989, employs more than 130 people. It is owned jointly by Lake Superior Forest Products (a subsidiary of Quebec-based Resolute Forest Products) and five major U.S. publishers.

The mill closure has been described as an "indefinite idling" and it wasn't immediately clear if employees have been notified of layoffs, The Spokesman-Review reports. The mill had recently paused operations for two weeks, but employees were notified not to come back to work at the scheduled end of the hiatus.

“It’s bad news for the county,” Pend Oreille County Commissioner Mike Manus said Wednesday. “That’s all I’m working on right now – trying to figure out where we’re going, what’s going on and what we can do.”

Declining newspaper sales have caused speculation for years that the mill could close, but the loss of advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic might have been the final nail in the coffin.

If the mill shuts down permanently, it would mean the loss of the biggest customer for the Pend Oreille Public Utility District. Ponderay Newsprint used 87 megawatts -- 70% of the PUD's total electrical load.



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Invest in Early Childhood Education


Fixing child-care shortage and Washington's economic recovery go hand in hand

By The Seattle Times Editorial Board

As Washington gets back to business, many job-seeking parents of young children face a frustrating double bind. Even if they do find employment that will help them provide for their family, the short supply of quality, affordable child care makes it impossible for them to take the job.

Nearly half -- 47% -- of unemployed parents cited lack of child care as a barrier to re-employment in a May survey, according to a state Child Care Collaborative Task Force child-care industry assessment. Since March, more than 1,100 licensed child-care providers have at least temporarily closed, exacerbating a shortage flagged by state lawmakers long before COVID-19...

Even before this spring's upheaval, nearly half of Washington parents reported difficulty finding and keeping affordable child care. Twenty-seven percent reported leaving a job, school or training because of a lack of consistent, affordable care, according to a Department of Commerce report.

This is not just a problem for working families; it is a drain on the state's economy. Commerce estimates that employee turnover and missed work due to child-care issues create an annual $2.08 billion drag on the state economy. That number triples when figuring in opportunity costs.

Addressing Washington's child-care shortage will not be easy, especially during the tough economic times ahead. But quality, affordable child care is a linchpin to the state's economic recovery. More must be done to ensure this essential sector does not fail.

Read the full editorial in The Seattle Times
Foreign Workers Support Our Economy


Big Tech isn't the only loser in Trump's visa freeze

By Tae Kim

On Monday, Trump signed an executive order that freezes access to a number of work visas through year-end, including the H-1B visa for highly-skilled foreigners, which is primarily given to workers in the technology industry. The issuance of new green cards will also stay halted until the end of the year. The administration said the order would free up jobs for unemployed Americans, adding it would block about 500,000 people from entering the country this year.

The move sparked an avalanche of criticism from technology companies. They said the measures will hurt their ability to recruit talent and have deeper negative ramifications for the economy.

An Amazon.com Inc. spokesperson called the order "shortsighted," adding it prevents "high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America's economic recovery, [putting] American's global competitiveness at risk."

A Facebook Inc. representative said Trump is using the pandemic as justification for "limiting" immigration, which will make "our country's recovery even more difficult."

And Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith said on social media, "Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety."

Read the full column in The Seattle Times