March 30, 2020
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COVID-19

Washington employers, families, first responders and more stand to benefit from historic federal stimulus package

Small business loans and grants, direct payments to American families and a massive influx of federal funds for state unemployment systems are among the highlights of a historic stimulus measure passed by Congress and signed into law on Friday. The $2.2 trillion package aims to boost a national economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

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State and federal unemployment claims spike to record levels

With businesses shut down, workers are turning to unemployment in dramatic numbers. Nearly 120,000 more Washingtonians applied for unemployment benefits last week than the week before. That's an 834% increase. Some sectors are seeing 2,000% increases in jobless claims.

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Gov. Inslee declares 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' rule

At midnight last Wednesday, Washington began a mandatory stay-home order, with exceptions for food shopping, emergencies, and work at "essential" businesses. Non-essential businesses can continue operating, but only if work takes place remotely. Washington's early steps to enforce social distancing appear to be working to start flattening the curve of new infections, but Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington is not "within 1,000 miles of declaring victory" yet.

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State launches new online portal to answer questions

Washington state officials have launched a new online portal in an effort to handle the large volume of questions from the public, including employers, about a historic shutdown order in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Banks, federal agencies under pressure to help small businesses in COVID-19 economic fallout

During AWB's weekly COVID-19 webinar this morning, a leading Washington bank president urged employers to be patient over the next week as federal officials finalize rules for the economic relief programs approved by Congress just last Friday. And before giving an overview of the $2.2 trillion package, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer acknowledged the public health crisis that has led to 195 deaths in Washington. Watch a replay of the webinar here.

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Employers helping invent, produce and distribute important supplies

Businesses in Washington and across the country are helping produce needed medical supplies. Manufacturers are designing new processes to make masks, ventilators and other products. And while countless manufacturers are voluntarily converting to medical production, on Friday the president ordered General Motors to make ventilators using the Defense Production Act.

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AWB continues ongoing survey campaign to track employer needs and impact of COVID-19

Two weeks ago, AWB surveyed its members to ask what Washington businesses needed as the COVID-19 outbreak increased in scope and impact. The survey provided important guidance for AWB as it advocates for employers during the early days of the pandemic. Now, AWB will be repeating the survey every two weeks to keep apprised of the changing needs of Washington employers in this uncertain time. Watch your inbox for this week's survey and please take two minutes to respond. Your response will help all employers in our state.

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Department of Revenue moves back tax deadlines due to COVID-19

Employers who file business taxes quarterly or annually will get an automatic extension of their filing deadlines. Due to COVID-19, the filing dates will be moved back without filers needing to request an extension.

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Other News

Washington Research Council: Legislature acknowledged negative outlook, but increased spending 20.5%

In a new policy brief, the Washington Research Council looks at the recently passed state budget. The Legislature increased appropriations by 20.5%. That's less than either chamber had proposed, but still probably more than can be sustained, the council concludes.

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Columbia Pulp's tree-free pulp helps bring shuttered Oregon paper mill back to life

The winner of AWB's 2018 Operational Excellence Award is supplying the remarkably green new raw material that brought an Oregon paper mill back from the dead.

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AWB Events & Resources

HR & Employment Law Webinar on April 1: Wage and Hours

Learn about the latest developments in federal, state and local wage and hour laws so that your organization can focus on compliance and avoid administrative claims during AWB's next HR & Employment Law webinar on April 1. There will be more relevant topics in the months ahead, including ways to properly handle performance evaluations, the latest on non-competition agreements, and more. Register online for this and other timely webinars!

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AWB hosts weekly webinar for employers covering the coronavirus

Every Monday from 10-11 a.m., the Employer Resources Webinar Series will give you real-time, expert insights on all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to connect you to the latest information, webinar speakers rotate depending on the breaking news of the week. Check our webinar landing page for who's on the agenda to connect you with the latest information, direct from top officials. Watch a replay of the webinar here.

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Tweet of the Week

No Pass Needed



They Said It

United to Survive COVID-19 Together

"Washingtonians are smart, kind, and tough. We will emerge from this challenge more united than ever, prepared to build an even stronger Washington." ~ A joint statement last week from the four majority and minority leaders of the Legislature: Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, and House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox.




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Housing Solutions


Coronavirus makes it harder on renters and builders, but there is hope

By Rep. Andrew Barkis

We also cannot lose sight of the underlying problem facing our state when coronavirus finally abates: a lack of housing supply. The best way to address our supply problem is to create more housing. We need more apartments, condos and houses. When our supply is properly aligned with demand, it will lower housing costs.

Unfortunately, government has created impediments for our state's building industry -- including burdensome regulations and restrictions under the Growth Management Act and designated Urban Growth Areas. These and other regulatory burdens have made it harder to build in our state. This has resulted in fewer and more expensive housing units for Washingtonians.

Our developers, contractors and laborers now face uncertainty with the potential impacts of coronavirus. They are trying to get clarification on what the governor's recent proclamation means for their industry and will be navigating issues relating to labor shortages, supply chains, material costs and investment uncertainty. Now more than ever, our private sector needs barriers removed.

The good news is there has been an awakening in the Legislature to the reality that well-intended policies of the past have contributed to our housing crisis. There is a willingness to address the problems in bipartisan ways. And stakeholders who have been at the opposite ends of issues are coming to the center to find solutions...

Read the full guest column in The Seattle Times
Speak Up for Green Power


Here's why we must save the Snake River dams

By Karl Dye, Lori Mattson and Michael Novakovich

Agriculture, transportation, tourism and clean, affordable hydropower are the foundation of the Tri-Cities economy. Preserving and growing that foundation demands the continued operation of the Columbia River dams, including those on the lower Snake River.

Recently, after more than three years of research in collaboration with over 30 agencies, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and Bureau of Reclamation released their long-awaited draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This comprehensive, impartial study explored alternatives for how the Columbia River hydropower system could be operated in the future. A portion of the study includes impacts of breaching the lower Snake River Dams. You can view the draft EIS at comments.crso.info.

According to the draft EIS, breaching the dams will not provide a significant benefit to steelhead and salmon returns. However, it will spur tremendous negative impacts on agriculture, navigation and carbon-free electrical generation, both locally and throughout the entire Pacific Northwest.

Therefore, the CEO's of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Visit Tri-Cities and TRIDEC are submitting comments to support the findings of the draft EIS and we ask all Tri-Citians to do the same...

Karl Dye is president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council; Lori Mattson is president and CEO of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Michael Novakovich is president and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities.

Read the full op-ed in The Tri-City Herald