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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Gov. Inslee extends 27 proclamations relating to COVID-19

The extensions intend to provide support to those impacted by the pandemic

 This graph depicts the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington state. There’s a noticeable increase in cases starting in late October and early November. This increase led Inslee to extend the proclamations. Graph by the Washington State Department of Health. 

By Henry Stewart-Wood

In response to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Washington, Gov. Inslee extended 27 proclamations on Tuesday, Nov. 10,  intended to help people facing hardships during the pandemic. 

Included in the proclamations Inslee extended are rules regarding unemployment, utility suspension and protection orders. The extensions will be in effect until Dec. 7. 

Unemployment

Prior to the pandemic, people receiving unemployment had to search for a job each week they made unemployment claims, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, economist for Washington’s Employment Security Department.

There was also a one-week waiting period to collect unemployment insurance, according to the proclamation.

Both of these stipulations have been suspended under Inslee’s recent proclamation extension. 

This means people receiving unemployment insurance through the Washington Employment Security Department will not have to search for a job or wait one week before receiving their unemployment payment, according to the proclamation. 

“The motivation behind it is we didn’t want to have people out looking for work if the primary objective is to stop [the spread],” Vance-Sherman said. 

The shared work program –– which supplements workers’ wages with unemployment assistance while business is slow –– has also been extended. 

Whatcom County had an unemployment rate of 8% in September, compared to an average unemployment rate of 5% in 2019, according to the Employment Security Department

Utilities 

The proclamation prohibiting utility service providers from imposing late fees and disconnecting utilities due to nonpayment has also been extended. 

The proclamation states its purpose is to protect people who’ve suffered economically from the pandemic. The proclamation also states that to protect public health, everyone should have access to the basic vital necessities like heat and water. 

Restraining orders

Inslee extended the proclamation which temporarily lifted certain requirements needed to obtain a restraining order. The goal of this proclamation is to speed up the process of obtaining a protection order and other services for domestic violence survivors. 

The stay-at-home orders instituted across the country led to difficulties in reporting cases of domestic violence and an overall drop in reports. Research suggests that despite the drop in reports, domestic violence is more likely to occur in difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In many cases, in-person hearings are no longer required to obtain a protection order.  Services available to survivors of domestic violence or abuse in Whatcom County are listed here. This site features a safe exit button which will return the user to Google in case of an emergency.

Tuition

Another proclamation allows universities to grant tuition waivers to out-of-state graduate students. 

The proclamation says graduate students often perform teaching and research roles at their universities. Universities in Washington are conducting primarily online classes, so graduate students may be working while not living in Washington. The proclamation allows universities to grant these students residency for tuition waivers, meaning they can pay in-state tuition rates. 

Licensing

To protect Department of Licensing employees from COVID-19, the proclamation that temporarily extends renewal dates of personal and commercial driver licenses has also been extended. This means fewer people will have to go to the Department of Licensing in person, reducing the chance of exposure.
People may not have to renew their licenses in person if their license expires before Dec. 7, according to the proclamation.

The full list of proclamations can be viewed here.

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