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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 27, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 13
Rep. Chopp's letter: Continued action to confront COVID-19 and the challenges it has laid bare
Section One
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Rep. Chopp's letter: Continued action to confront COVID-19 and the challenges it has laid bare

Friends and neighbors,

In the short 60 days of this year's state legislative session, the world changed. State legislators responded to a massive new public health emergency, and to challenges that have gone on for years.

Public health
Facing the COVID-19 virus challenge, the legislature took swift action to allocate an initial $200 million out of our "rainy day" reserves to combat the virus that is affecting all of our lives. Working with Gov. Inslee and health care agencies, we stand ready to make further investments to deal with the immediate health crisis, as well as the economic fallout affecting those who are sick or laid off from work.

Fortunately, our state's Unemployment Insurance Program can help, with cash benefits to the unemployed among the highest of any state in the nation. Due to the crisis, unemployment insurance has been expanded for people who are quarantined, and the one-week waiting period to receive benefits has been waived.

If you or a loved one have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state's central coronavirus response website [https://coronavirus.wa.gov] can direct you to the appropriate resources. Resources may include rent relief, unemployment assistance, tax extensions, and more. If you need further help finding assistance, please reach out to my legislative assistant, Daniel Lugo (Daniel.Lugo@leg.wa.gov).

Housing and homelessness
The COVID-19 crisis has harshly underscored that people experiencing homelessness are extremely vulnerable. In this ongoing emergency, I am leading several efforts to address the tragedy of homelessness and the need for affordable housing. This past legislative session, we:

Allocated $55 million to our Housing Trust Fund, for a historic total of $230 million over two years. These funds will build new social housing with restricted rents, and preserve existing homes for those most in need.

Passed House Bill 1590, which will provide counties across the state with funds for supportive housing and services for those with mental illness or substance use disorders. In King County alone, over $500 million will be provided to build new housing.

Dedicated $60 million to the Home Security Fund, to increase local emergency shelter capacity for the homeless, and $45 million for supportive housing services for those suffering from behavioral health challenges.

Expanded the Housing and Essential Needs program with $45 million over three years to provide housing vouchers for low-income people to help prevent homelessness.

Secured funding for the Home and Hope program so our community colleges can develop partnerships and projects to provide housing on-site for homeless students and low-wage workers, as well as other needed community facilities, like early learning centers, community health clinics, and senior services.

Initiated a new state program of Community Housing and Cottages, with $5 million in start-up funding to build small homes with full basic utilities - a big step up from the current "tiny homes" for the homeless. The cottages are intended for anyone seeking a low-cost home, not just the homeless. The first cottage village is being developed this year at Sand Point in North Seattle.

Early learning and childcare
Many families are now experiencing what some families have across the state have known for a long time: a lack of child care is immensely challenging to kids, parents, and the economy. Over the years there has been a shortage of available placements, a lack of facilities, and very low wages for child care providers. Even though early learning is the best investment we can make in our future, we lag behind compared to other areas like basic education, higher education, and transportation.

To begin to turn around this dynamic, this year we:

Invested $114 million over three years in funding for Working Connections Child Care, to keep early learning providers in business and subsidize low-income parents.

Raised the reimbursement rates for Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program by 5%, to address the low pay of teachers and operational costs.

This is a critical time for all of us, and we will work together as One Washington to preserve our health and communities. COVID-19 has made it clear that we must continue to take bold action to confront crises in health care, housing, and childcare.

It's an honor to serve you and everyone in the 43rd Legislative District.

Please stay in touch by e-mailing me at Frank.Chopp@leg.wa.gov or calling my office.

Sincerely,
Rep. Frank Chopp
State Representative
43rd District Democrat

Courtesy of Rep. Frank Chopp

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Terrence McNally's "Every Act of Life" - November 3, 1938 - March 24, 2020
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