The Durkan Digest: Responding to the economic challenges of the COVID-19 crisis

Seven weeks ago today, we learned of the first confirmed death related to COVID19 in Kirkland. I could have never imagined Seattle would be at the forefront of a pandemic or that our lives would change so drastically. When the severity of the spread became clear, the City adjusted focus to two top priorities: keeping as many people safe and our health care system from being overwhelmed, and helping as many people as possible through this difficult moment.

I said early on that we were at the beginning of a marathon, not a sprint. Without a vaccine and the widescale testing capacity we need, Seattle will need to adapt to a new normal in the weeks and months to come. This virus has not left our community, and I’m asking every Seattle resident to think of the nurses and health care workers on the front lines before you leave the house. Please stay home, but if you need to exercise or go to get groceries at the farmers market, practice the social distancing necessary to keep us all healthy.

We know this virus has had a disproportionate impact on those who are the most economically vulnerable and without a safety net. So, the first thing we did was make sure everyone could stay in their homes and count on having their utilities on. We have also prioritized our resources for many families in Seattle for childcare, meals and groceries, and rental assistance. You can find more information here on:

o Relief on Utilities: Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) will keep utility services on for customers. More than 4,000 individuals have signed up for the Utility Discount Program (UDP). We are now allowing self-certification form for income-eligible customers learn more here.

https://bit.ly/3eN9o5x

Customers financially impacted by COVID 19 can set up payment plans with either Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities by calling 206-684-3000 or sending an email 24/7 at

http://www.seattle.gov/utilities/about-us/email-question

o Moratorium on Residential Evictions: On March 14, Mayor Durkan signed a moratorium on evictions for residents, non-profits, and small businesses. For more information, read this FAQ.

https://bit.ly/2VUS6L8

o Food Resources: The City of Seattle has provided grocery vouchers to thousands of families. The City’s Human Services Department (HSD) put together this interactive Food Resource Map

https://tabsoft.co/35aKKI1

to help residents find available food resources in their neighborhood. o Emergency Childcare: The City currently runs 27 classrooms throughout the City for the children of healthcare workers, first responders, grocery workers or pharmacy workers. Essential employees in these industries are encouraged to visit the City of Seattle Emergency Child Care website and fill out an interest form to apply for childcare.

https://bit.ly/2VuWsKc

o Rental Assistance: United Way of King County, in partnership with King County, the City of Seattle and the Seattle Foundation, announced the launch of a $5 million investment in United Way’s expanded Home Base program to provide rental assistance to King County households that have lost all or part of their income. It is estimated these funds will help up to 2,000 families stay in their homes. While the application period is currently paused due to demand, you can sign up for updates here.

https://bit.ly/2XVYip7

Despite what we’ve been able to do locally, I know we need significant state and federal resources to scale to the need of the crisis. I will continue to work with our Governor and our Congressional delegation to advocate for more direct assistance for our families in need. For a comprehensive list of local, State and Federal resources, visit: seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19.

https://bit.ly/2xLkDLs

Two critical resources from the state and federal government include:

o Unemployment Benefits: At the state level, Governor Inslee announced measures to help employees and employers with unemployment benefits. For more information, please see more details below or by visiting wa.gov.

https://esd.wa.gov

o Direct Payments: At the federal level, the CARES Act provides $1,200 directly to individuals and $500 for each child. This direct payment begins to phase out at incomes of $75,000 per individual or $150,000 per married couple. You can find out more information through contacting the Congressional delegation or learn more here.

https://bit.ly/2yIuVf9

I know these times are really tough for individuals, families, and small businesses in Seattle. As we move forward, I will continue to do everything possible to get the region the resources we need to get through this pandemic and to rebuild. Most importantly, my office and I will continue to prioritize the most vulnerable among us.

Though its hard to believe, we are still at the beginning of the marathon, and its going to get worse before it gets better, but we will get through it together. And, remember, stay home, and if you need to get out, practice social distancing our nurses, doctors, and the most vulnerable are counting on you.

Stay kind and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

Mayor Jenny Durkan

UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE FOR GIG WORKERS

Effective last night at 8pm, unemployment benefits in Washington state are expanding under the Federal CARES Act to cover independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Additionally, anyone who is receiving or will be receiving weekly unemployment benefits, either through regular State unemployment or through the expanded CARES Act will receive an additional $600 per week through the CARES Act. These new benefits are also available for workers who did not work enough hours to qualify for traditional unemployment benefits (workers who worked less than 680 hours). The City of Seattle encourages anyone who has lost work due to COVID-19 to apply including delivery drivers, Uber/Lyft drivers, and domestic workers who are house cleaners, nannies, cooks, home care workers, gardeners or household managers. You can apply to receive unemployment assistance from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) at esd.wa.gov/unemployment.

Here’s what to do right now to be prepared to apply:

o Sign up for Action Alerts

https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAESD/signup/15249

o Check out the application check list

https://esdorchardstorage.blob.core.windows.net/

esdwa/Default/ESDWAGOV/Unemployment/

COVID-19_Applications_CheckList.pdf

o Sign up for or check if you have a Secure Access WA (SAW) Account

https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/

o If you are an independent contractor or are self-employed, gather documents to show your work hours. Tax information like a tax return or 1099 is best, but other documents may be accepted.

Apply with your SAW Account.

STAY SAFE AND #KEEPITMOVING IN SEATTLE’S PARKS AND GREENWAYS

The City announced additional steps taken and guidelines for the safe use of City parks and greenways. The City will allow major parks to remain open throughout the weekend but will be requiring residents to keep moving and not play sports, picnic or barbecue, with additional new guidelines at Green Lake and Seward Park. The City will also open two neighborhood greenways in West Seattle and the Central District to allow safe exercise opportunities free of cars so residents can bike or walk this weekend. Parking lots at larger parks will remain closed.

Keep it Moving Guidance for Visitors:

o Stay Home. If you need to leave the house, visit your neighborhood park.

o Keep it Moving. Keep walking, running, rolling or biking. That means no picnics, no BBQs, no sports, no gatherings at our parks.

o Visit at Off Peak. Visit parks, greenways and farmers markets at off-peak hours.

o Crowded Spaces will mean Closed Spaces. If you see a crowd, go somewhere else.

Seattle Parks staff will be monitoring in real time and are prepared to close parks if there are too many gatherings or too many people. While individuals may continue to visit their neighborhood parks, Seattle Parks and Recreation has implemented the following steps ahead of the weekend at the largest parks:

o Deploying 60 new Social Distancing Ambassadors. Parks Ambassadors began last weekend and will be at all major parks to remind people to social distance and not gather. These ambassadors will take hourly data on usage and parks will be closed if usage is too high.

o Installation of hundreds of new signs reminding the public of Social Distancing and Keep It Moving expectations. You can view signs here and here.

o Closure of Sports Fields. All basketball courts, athletic fields, and tennis courts will continue to be closed for use.

o New Reporting for Lack of Social Distancing. The public can report any lack of social distancing to Seattle Parks and Recreation through social media, calling (206) 684-4075, or emailing

pks_info@seattle.gov

Courtesy of Seattle Office of the Mayor

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