Unemployment Claims Remain at Historic Highs

Initial claims for unemployment benefits remained at historical highs for the week of March 29-April 4, with over 170,063 initial claims filed during the week, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). Although this was a 6.5 percent decrease over the previous week, the number of initial claims filed was a 2,627 percent increase year over year and seven times more than the peak week during the 2008/2009 recession which saw 26,075 weekly initial claims.

In Mason County, there were 1,187 claims last week (3/29/2020 to 4/4/2020), slightly more than the week before’s (3/22/2020 to 3/28/2020) number of 1,178 claims.

During the week of March 29-April 4 ESD paid out $79.4 million to 182,315 individuals across Washington state. In total since the week ending March 16th, the first big week of claims related to COVID-19 job losses, ESD has paid out nearly $150 million in benefits to Washingtonians.

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State Board Approves Flexibility for Graduating Seniors

The Washington State Board of Education (SBE) approved emergency rules Wednesday, April 8 that allow flexibility and local-approval following extensive school building closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

At a special Board Meeting Wednesday, the State Board of Education adopted emergency rules that allow school districts to apply for greater flexibility in awarding a diploma to high school seniors impacted by closures.

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Residents Asked to Refrain from Burning

With neighborhoods full of home-bound residents thanks to the state-wide Stay at Home order, any smoke created by recreational fires or yard-waste burning may impact a large number of people. Worse, since Covid-19 creates severe respiratory issues, anything that impacts breathing during these tense times can add to people’s stress and worry.

For these reasons, the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) encourages residents and businesses to continue working together to protect public health by reducing the amount of smoke they produce. Folks are asked to refrain from outdoor burning activities, including recreational fires, yard waste burning, and land-clearing slash burning. These voluntary restrictions should be upheld until the need for ‘social distancing’ relaxes.

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Fund for State’s Food Banks Launched

Gov. Jay Inslee joined key nonprofits and local philanthropies Tuesday to launch a coordinated, statewide food relief fund that will help reach those in need in every corner of Washington.

With increasingly high demand, supplies at the state’s food banks have dropped to dangerously low levels, with an estimated 1.6 million people — double the usual number — in Washington expected to depend on those supplies this week.

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Kilmer, Herrera Beutler Call for Improvements to SBA Program

On Tuesday, Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) urged the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration to take steps to improve the Paycheck Protection Program and increase access to loans for small businesses being impacted by COVID-19 across Washington state. The Paycheck Protection Program, which was created in the third COVID-19 emergency relief package, provides forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll. The lawmakers called on the agencies to improve the operability of the loan application system, issue additional guidance to improve clarity for lenders, and enhance responsiveness to lenders and borrowers.

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Inslee, Commerce Announce Support for Small Businesses

Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday announced additional steps to help mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“We know this isn’t everything we need to recover. We know we have a long economic recovery ahead of us,” Inslee said. “The work ahead remains intense, and we are going to roll out every tool at our disposal while also expecting the federal government to live up to their obligations to our state.”

The new actions aim to help small businesses in Washington, and include: 

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Price Gouging Reporting Campaign Launched

Attorney General Bob Ferguson today launched an awareness campaign encouraging Washingtonians to report price gouging in three easy steps: “See It, Snap It, Send It.”

Ferguson is encouraging anyone who sees price gouging to snap a photo or take a screenshot, and then include the image with the complaint they file at the Attorney General’s website here. For more information on filing complaints, visit www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.

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17 Positive COVID-19 Cases in Mason County

[VIDEO] A man in his 50s has been added to the list of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Mason County. Mason County Public Health was notified Tuesday, April 7, 2020 of the additional positive test which brings the total to 17 positive cases of COVID-19 in the County. Mason County Public Health is conducting contact interviews at this time. The patient is currently isolating at home.

Due to Mason County being a small community, location data of positive cases will not be released to reduce the possibility of patient identification and to protect personal health information. Dave Windom, Director of Mason County Community Services, discussed why location data is not being released during Tuesday morning’s Mason County Commission meeting.

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