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.

Face Coverings

All Washingtonians are required to wear cloth face coverings in public.
Effective Friday, June 26, every Washingtonian in an indoor public space, or in an outside public space when unable to physically distance from others, will be legally required to wear a face covering.

  • Those with certain medical conditions and children under the age of two are excepted. Children aged 2-4 are encouraged, but not required, to wear a face-covering with adult assistance.
  • Individuals may remove face coverings under certain circumstances, including while eating or drinking at a restaurant; while communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing; and while outdoors in public areas, provided that a distance of six feet is maintained from people who are not members of their household.
  • Currently, businesses in Yakima County may not serve anyone who enters their business without a facial covering.

All Washington workers must wear cloth face coverings at work, at minimum.
As of June 8, all employees are required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction. This applies to employees working in separate rooms or cubicles if the walls are below face level when working at their desks.

Employers must provide workers with appropriately protective facial coverings for the worker’s risk of exposure.
Per the Safe Start plan, all Washington employers are required to provide (at no cost to employees) and require the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate for the worker’s risk of exposure. Cloth face coverings must be worn by every employee not working alone unless their risk profile dictates a higher level of protection.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The deadline to apply for the PPP is June 30.
There is one week left for small businesses, nonprofits, independent contractors and other eligible borrowers to access a forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

More than $128 billion in PPP funding is still available.
PPP loans are made by more than 4,500 participating PPP lenders nationwide and are guaranteed by the SBA. Interested borrowers should apply with local lenders who then submit the application to the SBA for approval.

PPP loans are forgivable in many cases.
The SBA will forgive PPP loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

COVID-19 Disease Activity, Safe Start Status

Washington’s 7-day test positivity rate is currently 3.7%
The test positivity rate indicates the proportion of tests that return positive results. 3.7% of individuals tested over the last week in Washington State tested positive for COVID-19. Yakima County reported 26.5%, Benton County reported 17.1%, and Franklin County reported 30.8%. These concentrated outbreaks remain of great concern.

Find county status and the meaning of each Safe Start phase at
Visit the Washington State Coronavirus Response website for county-level Safe Start phase status and “What’s open in each phase?“. Also refer to the Risk Assessment Dashboard for reporting on local health metrics.

17 Washington counties have reached Phase 3 of the Safe Start reopening plan.
Thurston, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific, Lewis, Wahkiakum, Lewis, Skamania, Kittitas, Lincoln, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Whitman, Garfield, Columbia, and Asotin counties have all reached Phase 3 of the Safe Start plan. Businesses in Phase 3 must develop and prominently post a safety plan that is at least as protective of Department of Labor & Industries requirements.


Unemployment and Return-to-Work Programs

Unemployment benefit work search requirement suspended until July 1.
Claimants are typically required to look for work and document their job search to remain eligible for unemployment benefits. This requirement has been suspended until July 1.  Claimants may wish to revisit the job search requirement page as this deadline approaches.

ESD to limit inbound calls between June 24 and July 2.
The Employment Security Department will temporarily restrict inbound claim center calls to prioritize customers waiting the longest for their benefits. Customers will still be able to apply for benefits and submit weekly claims online or by phone at 800-318-6022. Customers may also call 833-572-8400 for answers to general unemployment questions NOT specific to a particular claim.

  • Special holiday alert: All Washington state agencies will be closed July 3-4 in observance of the Independence Day holiday, as will the U.S. Postal Service and most banking institutions. However, ESD claims center staff could be making outbound calls over the holiday weekend to resolve pending claims.

SharedWork program helps businesses keep employees at reduced hours.
ESD’s SharedWork allows employers flexibility to retain workers at reduced hours. The program offers partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours are reduced by as much as 50 percent. Employees can begin to return to work and earn nearly a full paycheck.

Unemployment adjudication average is currently 8 weeks.
The Employment Security Department is working to address a current backlog of 33,393 claimants. The average wait time for adjudicated claims has been eight weeks. To avoid adjudication, new applicants should carefully follow ESD’s Unempolyment Benefits Application Checklist and review the Regular/Expanded Unemployment Eligibility Checker.

Other Recovery Programming

Small business crisis planning and recovery tools are available
The Department of Commerce has organized planning and recovery resources for small Washington businesses. Visit the page to learn about community WiFi hotspots, return-to-work plans, and state and federal funding opportunities.

Requirements and Resources for Small Businesses Webinar
This webinar series offers information specific to small businesses and a panel of state agency representatives to respond to live Q&A. The next webinar will be held on June 25 at 1:30 p.m.