Business & Worker Update: June 18, 2020

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June 18, 2020

The Business and Workers update is a weekly newsletter providing news and information to help businesses and workers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The information is compiled by the state Economic Resiliency Team (ERT), part of the Joint Information Center.

Department of Health situation report shows increased virus activity

Significant increases seen in Eastern Washington, some milder spikes noted in Western Washington.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released its latest statewide COVID-19 situation report. The report shows a significant increase in viral activity in Eastern Washington with concentrated spikes in Yakima, Spokane, Benton and Franklin counties. A rising positive test rate means that among tests administered, an increasing proportion of them return positive results. This indicates increased viral activity.

Another important indicator is the effective reproductive number, represented as Re. This is commonly referred to as the "R-naught" number. This is an estimation of the average number of others to whom an infected person will transmit the virus. Recent Re increases in both Western and Eastern Washington suggest increasing transmission statewide. In Western Washington, the latest best estimate is  Re = 1.16. In Eastern Washington, the latest best estimate is Re = 1.48. The statewide goal is Re = 1.00.

The Safe Start reopening plan accelerates economic activity based on local public health conditions. These increases in viral activity are alarming warning signs and may delay expansion of permitted business activity in affected counties.

Read the full COVID-19 Situation Report here

Safe Start Phase Progress

New phases

Safe Start county phase status as of June 17 at 5 p.m.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a medical issue. Must I wear a facial covering or mask at work?

Workers with medical issues preventing mask use should provide their employer with a medical professional’s accommodation statement that facial covering or masks should not be worn due to their condition. 

Can I require my employee to return to work?

No, you cannot require an employee to come back to work at this time. Employees who choose to remove themselves from a work site because they do not believe it is safe to work due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure may have access to certain leave or unemployment benefits.

Must I search for work to receive unemployment benefits?

You are typically required to look for work and document your job search to remain eligible for unemployment benefits. This requirement has been suspended until June 28th, at the earliest. As long as the suspension is in effect, you may select "no" on the job search question on your weekly claim. You may wish to revisit the ESD job search requirements page as the end of the month approaches.

I suspect unemployment fraud. How do I report it?

If you are a victim of unemployament fraud, follow the Employment Security Department's Unemployment Imposter Fraud checklist. Avoid divulging personal information over email or phone to any party claiming to represent ESD. Only file a fraud claim through ESD's secure fraud report form. Victims of unemployment imposter fraud are not liable to repay benefits issued in their name to a fraudster.

How do I know if I'm properly sanitizing my workplace?

The CDC has published guidance for cleaning of public spaces, workplaces, business, schools and homes. The resources within that page can help you develop a sanitization plan for your workplace. You may also consult with the Department of Labor & Industries to ensure that your safety plan meets state and sector-specific requirements. Visit the L&I website to request a consultation.

Federal Small Business Administration offers relief, assistance to small businesses

The Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Debt Relief may be available to Washington employers.

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering three recovery programs that may help smaller businesses weather the pandemic and keep workers on the payroll.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is approaching its final application deadline of June 30. The PPP was created to offer low-interest loans to small businesses and forgive them if the funds were used to keep workers on the payroll. The recent Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act expanded the flexibility of spending, repayment, and forgiveness of borrowed PPP funds.

The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program reopened for application on June 15. Formerly reserved for agricultural enterprises, these long-term, low-interest loans are now accessible to a broader array of small businesses and nonprofits. Borrowed funds may be used to pay debts and operational expenses made difficult by the pandemic. $2.17 billion dollars in EIDLs have already been approved to Washington businesses.

SBA offers an Economic Injury Loan Advance of up to $10,000 to businesses up to 500 employees. The advance is designed to provide economic relief to businesses experiencing a temporary loss of revenue during the pandemic. These advances need not be repaid, in many cases.

Finally, SBA will pay six months of principal, interest, and associated fees that borrowers own on new or regular-servicing 7(a), 504, and Microloans. The debt relief program could provide a much-needed financial reprieve to small businesses during the pandemic.

Follow @SBAPacificNW and @SBASeattle for localized updates from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Employer tax credits help businesses maintain their workforce, permit leave to affected workers

The Credit for Sick and Family Leave and the Employee Retention Credit may help with pandemic-related workforce issues.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has detailed two important tax credits for employers affected by the pandemic: the Credit for Sick and Family Leave and the Employee Retention Credit.

The Credit for Sick and Family Leave affords workers paid sick leave in the event that they must self-quarantine due coronavirus illness or symptoms. The credit also supports employees who cannot work in order to care for someone with the coronavirus, or care for children whose care provider is closed or unavailable.

The Employee Retention Credit may help businesses keep employees on the payroll as the economy gradually reopens. It is available to businesses fully or partially suspended by a government order or businesses with a significant decline in 2020 gross receipts. An IRS infographic details eligibility and exceptions for the credit.

Visit the IRS website for details about the Credit for Sick and Family Leave and the Employee Retention Credit.

Return-to-work resources available to employers and workers.

As economic activity accelerates, ESD resources are helping businesses and workers get back to work.

ESD’s nationally-recognized programs are helping businesses resume operations and workers return to the job as economic activity recovers in Washington State. ESD job-matching services, workforce preservation incentives, trainings, economic analysis, and financial programs are vital resources while the economy is on the mend.

ESD's employer resources include SharedWork, a workforce retention program allowing businesses to reduce employee hours and allowing them to collect partial unemployment and federal benefits as operations climb back to normal. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a tax incentive for employers to hire certain hard-to-place job seekers, facilitating their self-sufficiency and rewarding employers that give them a chance.

For workers, ESD offers Labor Market & Economic Analysis to observe hiring and workforce trends by industry. ESD’s Jobs and Training page helps workers explore new career opportunities. is connecting workers with prospective employers as the economy picks up steam. Employers can post unlimited job postings, automatically rank applicants, and compare candidates side-by-side. Job seekers can use advanced search tools to browse thousands of openings.

Additional Resources


"COVID-19 & the Washington Economy", a webinar by the Association of Washington Business

On Friday, June 19 at 10 a.m., a trio of State department heads and Governor Jay Inslee will offer their perspectives on the pandemic and its effect on the Washington economy.

  • Jay Inslee, Governor of the State of Washington.
  • Lisa Brown, Director of the Department of Commerce
  • Joel Sacks, Director of the Department of Labor & Industries
  • Suzi LeVine, Commissioner of the Employment Security Department


Washington-Made PPE Marketplace by the Association of Washington Business

AWB’s “PPE Connect” marketplace connects Washington employers with Washington manufacturers of protective equipment. Keep your workers safe and support Washington businesses by requesting PPE through AWB’s marketplace.


Questions Regarding Your Business?

Ask questions about workplace safety, Safe Start phases, relief programs, paid sick leave, unemployment, and more. Our Business Response Center is standing by to respond.

Submit your question here.

“The trends we’re seeing point to the critical importance of actions we can all take, like staying six feet apart and wearing cloth face coverings whenever we’re in public.”

Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer at the Washington State Department of Health