Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you are safe and healthy during this difficult and unusual time. I wanted to give you a brief update on the COVID-19 coronavirus situation in Washington state, while reminding you of upcoming election year restrictions.
On Friday, May 1, the governor extended his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to May 31. The governor outlined a four-phase plan for businesses to reopen. The plan will focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19 using four capabilities including:
- Health care system readiness
- Testing capacity
- Ability to do contact investigations
- Ability to protect high-risk populations
Below is a chart outlining his four-phase approach.
He also outlined a plan for ten counties that have not been hit as hard by COVID-19 might be able to open sooner. The counties will be able to apply to the Department of Health for a variance from his new order, which would allow them to move on to the next phase more quickly. The counties are: Pend Oreille, Ferry, Lincoln, Columbia, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kittitas, Skamania and Wahkiakum.
This is a step in the right direction, but I am concerned about the timeline. The governor mentioned a possible three-week period in between phases. That means it could be mid-July before some of our businesses and counties could be opened back up.
Safe Economic Restart Plan
On April 17, Republicans in the House and Senate released a Safe Economic Restart Plan. The plan does not have a specific timeline with the ever changing numbers of the coronavirus. It does look at various ideas and strategies to reopen our economy in a safe and smart manner.
While we want to keep everyone safe, we are looking at ways to accelerate phases of the governor's order, increase the number of counties that can apply for variances, balance public health with civil rights and show trust in you, the citizens of Washington state.
There are proposals out there. On May 1, Rep. Chris Gildon and other elected officials sent a letter to the governor requesting a decentralized approach to Washington state's recovery from the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. Let the counties decide when is best to reopen since they understand their resources available and can determine which restrictions need to be imposed or modified in their communities.
Reps. Jesse Young and Jim Walsh have also introduced a plan, known as BOISE. It is a two-pronged approach to restart our state's economy by allowing shuttered businesses the opportunity to quickly earn back much-needed lost revenue and increase their short-term margin, while streamlining their ability to get back up-to-speed by removing waiting period for governmental reviews and permitting to begin their work.
Bunk bed rule
On April 27 I signed on to a letter sent to the governor concerning the proposed housing rules under the Emergency Regulations for Agricultural Employers, (known as the Bunk Bed Rule). Our tree fruit industry could be devastated if this rule is fully implemented. The Capital Press has an overview of the issue in an article they published a couple weeks ago. Click here to read. It is critical we make sure our farm workers are safe and able to work while ensuring our tree fruit industry has a strong workforce.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau has extended the deadline to Oct. 31 for people residing in the United States to fill out and submit census forms.
It is important people in the 15th District participate in the census. The once-in-a-decade population count is used by government and private industry for critical resource-allocation decisions. If the 15th District has a low or inaccurate count in it could mean the loss of public funds for health care, educational programs, transportation, law enforcement, and many other services. If you have not participated in the census you can do so at 2020census.gov.
Due to election-year restrictions starting on May 11, this is the last email update I will be able to send until after the election is certified in November, the one exception being if we are in special session. I am still able to answer questions, concerns, or assist you if you need help navigating state bureaucracy. I hope to see you around the district this summer and fall.