COVID-19: Opening Washington state back up for business

Senator Hans Zeiger 25th District Letter from Olympia

Dear neighbor,

Three weeks ago, my wife Erin gave birth to our daughter Aubrey Rose. Erin and Aubrey are healthy, and we are grateful to so many friends and neighbors who have sent notes of congratulations. Baby Aubrey is a reminder to us of God’s blessings in the midst of this very challenging time for our whole world.

Every day, citizens contact me to share some of the difficulties they are experiencing in this time, or to voice their opinions about how we might move forward as a state. Some have shared valuable information that has helped me to better understand our present situation. Others have passed along messages they have sent to Governor Inslee as he exercises the emergency powers given to him under state law. I have heard from small business owners who are eager to get back to work safely when they can, unemployed workers who are struggling to access unemployment benefits during a time of overwhelming demand, and sportsmen who would like to resume activities like recreational fishing.   

As the days pass and the statewide Stay Home order continues, many are anxious about finances, the economy and what lies ahead in the future. But we are making progress in our fight against coronavirus, together.

I am more thankful than ever for the amazing people who work in our health care system, who go to work every day and who make a tremendous difference for the people they care for. I am thankful for those who keep our food supply chain working, from farmers to truck drivers to grocery workers. I am thankful for our first responders. And I am thankful for our food banks and other local charities that go the extra mile to help people when they fall on hard times.

As we continue to do all we can to prevent virus infections and deaths, we must take steps to allow our economy to safely reopen for business. I believe that we can carefully and responsibly resume some economic activity while continuing to practice social distancing and other safety measures.

Last week, Republicans in the state House of Representatives and Senate were the first to introduce a plan for safely restarting Washington’s economy, while continuing our efforts to combat the coronavirus.

Some plan highlights include:

  • Allow operations to resume in economic sectors that fit one or more of these criteria: low-risk, personal health, environmental protection, aid to elderly/physically challenged, alternate quarantine locations, assisting businesses with tax-related requirements, or property protection. Examples: auto dealers, solo landscape services, car washes, remodeling companies/contractors, residential construction, hairdressers/barbers, flower shops, RV parks, dentists, installers of home/commercial security systems, and accountants/tax preparers.
  • A moratorium on all state-agency rulemaking not related to the current crisis. Rules are important, but at a time when many businesses are simply trying to survive, the making of new rules seems less than essential. Relief from rulemaking goes hand-in-hand with relief from taxes.
  • Deliver on the massive testing capabilities promised by state health officials ahead of the business-closure order.
  • Exempt small businesses from paying sales and B&O taxes for one year.
  • Forgive first-quarter small-business B&O taxes for 2020 and allow deferral of remaining quarterly taxes to the end of 2020. It makes more sense for state government to assist employers through this difficult time, so they can return to becoming regular taxpayers, than to see employers fail and drop off the tax rolls completely.
  • Forgive payments related to unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and paid family leave for April 2020 through the month that the business-closure order is lifted or amended, as appropriate.

To read the full proposal, click here.

2020 Census: It’s time to be counted

Every 10 years, The US Census Bureau conducts a Population and Housing census, in which every resident is counted. You should have received an invitation to participate. If you haven’t already, be sure to respond to the Census Bureau with your information. It is very important that everyone be counted. See my video below to learn more.

census

Please contact me if I can be helpful to you in this difficult time, especially if you have problems contacting a state agency or processing casework. I am grateful to my legislative assistant Aaron Hallenberg, who has been very helpful to constituents who have contacted us these past couple months. You can contact our office at hans.zeiger@leg.wa.gov.

May each of you be safe and healthy. 

All the best,

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