Reopening, Unemployment, and Resources for Small Businesses

By: Editorial Staff Posted: 04/20/2020

Updates on three key topics that we know are on many of your minds

Here are updates on three key topics that we know are on many of your minds. As always, the Chamber is here for you as your business advocate, and we are committed to helping you and your colleagues navigate these uncertain times.

Reopening

We have heard questions from many members in the past week about reopening the economy. There is an opportunity for the private sector to lead the conversation on HOW we reopen, which will directly influence the Governor's decision on WHEN we reopen, and we are working with partners in the business community on that conversation now.

As the Governor said in his remarks on April 15, reopening will be a dial, not a switch, and we want to make sure that businesses have the information and resources they need to operate safely and successfully, particularly if they are within the first notch of that dial.

We welcome your thoughts, and have set up a short, anonymous survey to get an initial baseline understanding of the readiness of the business community to restart. It should take about 2-4 minutes to complete.

Updates to Unemployment Benefits

Last week, Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine announced some important updates to ESD's resources that will help both employers and workers. This includes a major update to the ESD claims system, implemented this weekend to reflect the new resources available to workers through the CARES Act passed by Congress, including the ability for self-employed individuals and part-time workers with less and 680 hours to apply for benefits.

She has shared the following key steps to take right now to support your workers:

  1. Consider SharedWork: If you are able to reduce staff hours rather than laying people off, ESD highly recommends considering SharedWork. This program allows you to reduce staff hours 10-50% and have Unemployment Insurance provide partial wage replacement against those reduced hours. You can learn more and apply here. In addition to the Unemployment Insurance weekly benefit, those staff members will be able to receive the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal CARES Act through the end of July. Additionally, the CARES Act covers 100% of the costs so it won't impact an employer's experience rating.
  2. Prepare your staff for the process: Here is a resource center where you'll find a template letter for you to use to send to your employees, webinar sign-up information and other tools for your employees you intend to lay off due to COVID-19. This will provide guidance on how they can best prepare to apply and give you a vehicle to answer company specific questions. If you are a larger employer with more than 250 impacted employees and need help customizing your message and frequently asked questions, please contact ESD for assistance at ESDGPBusinessAssistance@esd.wa.gov
  3. Emphasize these four steps: At a minimum, ESD recommends sharing these four action steps with your staff, especially with the upcoming rollout of the federal CARES Act. ESD recommends everyone do these right now, before they apply:
    1. Stay up to date. If you haven't already, please sign up for ESD's COVID-19 action alerts. You can do so on the agency's COVID page (esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19). We send out updated information and instructions through this channel.
    2. Check your eligibility. Learn more about your eligibility and when to apply for benefits using this eligibility checker. ESD encourages those eligible for regular unemployment to apply now, and newly eligible to wait until after April 18.
    3. Get ready to apply. Download the application checklist.
    4. Set up your account. Watch the tutorial video to set up your account correctly. It is nine minutes long but will likely save a lot of time.
  4. Come up to speed: Go to ESD.WA.GOV and check out their COVID-19 information section. There, you'll find FAQs for employees and businesses, preparation checklists and more.

Small Business Funding

On April 16, the SBA announced that it is not able to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program until the program gets more funding.

We are fighting hard to get Congress to appropriate additional funding for the program and will keep you updated as that develops. We understand how critical this funding is and will do everything we can to speed its passage.

Until we can get that through Congress, here are some resources that the SBA recommends using:

Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the launch of its Save Small Business Fund, which will provide $5,000 in short-term relief to employers across the United States. These one-time supplemental cash grants are for businesses that have between three and 20 employees, and operate in an economically vulnerable community (check if you qualify based on your ZIP code here). The grant application went live on Monday, April 20 at 12:00pm Pacific Time.