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Emergency income assistance

Published:2020-03-07 State
Emergency income assistance    Print Snohomish Times    
Emergency income assistance

A group of leading community and labor organizations across the state — including Working Washington, Washington Community Action Network, MLK County Labor Council, the Transit Riders Union, and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance — have signed on to an open letter calling on state political leaders to use their emergency powers to take four bold & necessary steps to mitigate the economic impacts of the coronavirus response:

1. Preserve medical benefits.
Employers should be required to maintain the health benefits of their current employees, regardless of hours worked, and suspend the implementation of any other policy or practice which would otherwise terminate the healthcare benefits of anyone who currently receives such benefits. State and local government should similarly suspend any action to terminate anyone from any public plan of any kind.

2. Moratorium on evictions.
In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, we must keep people housed. Elected leaders should suspend all unlawful detainer filings during this crisis, and county sheriffs should suspend posting writs of restitution or otherwise carrying out evictions.

3. Prevent utility shut-offs.
The impacts of utility shut-offs are severe in any circumstances, but would be even more severe in the midst of a coronavirus-related public health emergency. For example, it is vital that people have access to hot water in order to wash their hands. All public and private utilities doing business in the state should halt all utility shut-offs during this crisis. This specifically includes companies which provide internet and cell service, as they are critically important channels to provide accessible, accurate, and timely public health information.

4. Emergency Income Assistance.
Government should provide emergency assistance to “backfill” a substantial share of any income lost to any worker during this crisis, regardless of the specific circumstances of the income reduction, regardless of whether or not these circumstances are directly or indirectly tied to coronavirus, and regardless of classification as an employee or contractor. A new Emergency Income Assistance program could be rolled out quickly through the existing infrastructure used to pay unemployment benefits — though it would cover any reduction in work income, not just loss of employment — and could be funded through the release of surplus monies in the state budget stabilization account. Funds could be paid through simplified access to a combination of expanding partial unemployment benefits in the event of hours reductions, a waiver of the “waiting week” and job search requirements currently attached to unemployment benefits, expanding paid family and medical leave benefits to cover preventive quarantine, and expanding workers compensation benefits to cover exposure on the job.

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