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COVID-19 Update

Once again, we are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country and King County. The number of hospitalizations, positive cases and deaths is increasing faster than when the pandemic first started. I recognize the sacrifices many are making in deciding to forgo celebrations with loved ones during this holiday season, but we must continue to take precautions to keep our family, neighbors, workers, and ourselves healthy by following the State and CDC guidelines

Since the beginning of COVID-19 we quickly identified the disproportionate impact in communities of color, as we track the impact we continue to see the increasing disparities in the Latinx, Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, Black, and American Indian/Alaskan Native communities. COVID-19 only amplified the vulnerabilities of BIPOC communities; for a long time we have known that these communities experience higher health conditions due to their economic status and lack of access to proper healthcare. Elected officials have a duty to right these wrongs and provide equitable investments to address the disparities.

Last week the State Department of Health release a new app that can notify people if they might have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. It's called WA Notify. This new technology, developed by the Department of Health and the University of Washington, can help slow the spread of the virus by quickly alerting folks that might have been exposed and don't know it, allow people to get tested quickly and practice strict quarantine to prevent further spread. The new smartphone feature uses privacy-preserving technology without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. I encourage you to download the app on your smartphone or tablet, this is an important tool that is available to slow the spread of COVID. 

COVID testing sites around Seattle and King County are available free of charge. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or were exposed to someone with the virus, please make a reservation at a testing site near you. In addition, the City of Seattle is launching two new testing kiosks located in Northgate at the south end of the Northgate Community Center and in the Central District east of the Garfield Community Center. These testing sites are free of cost. Individuals must pre-register online (there are limited walk-in options, pre-registration is recommended).

Small Business Support

Small businesses and workers are the backbone of our city's economy. In the last nine months we have seen hundreds of our favorite small businesses close and thousands of workers left without a job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The City Council and the Mayor have allocated more than $8.6 million toward to small business emergency relief fund. We know local governments that invest in standing up supports during economic downturns recover faster. While Seattle has invested millions of dollars in small business supports, we must do more to close funding gaps and invest further in our small businesses, especially as our city undergoes another round of COVID-related closures. 

For the past months, my office along with Council President González, Councilmember Morales and the Mayor's office, have been in constant communication with stakeholders from the restaurant industry. We've learned about their unique needs and the urgency of additional funds. Yesterday we introduced a $5 million grant to support small restaurants and service workers that have been impacted by the pandemic. We were able to include $2.5 million to small restaurants and bars and $2.5 million to workers in the restaurant industry.

During the last round of the Small Business Stabilization Fund (SBSF), the Office of Economic Development (OED) received about 1,100 applications from restaurants and bar owners that could qualify for this funding. Due to the high volume of applicants last round, we will not open the application process, instead, OED will award grants to eligible applicants from the recent pool of applicants. All eligible applicants will receive grants to support continuing operations—including outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery. Restaurants and bars who receive grants through this newest round will remain eligible for up to $10,000 through the SBSF as well.

We know that the need is dire and that the city alone can’t sustains small businesses that are struggling to keep the lights on and their workers on payroll. We need the Federal Government to step up and do its part.

We are grateful for Governor Inslee's recent announcement of the $70 million for the Washington Small Business grant, of which $50 million will be for new grants and $20 million will be used to fund eligible business that applied in earlier grant rounds. New applicants will be given priority if they submit their application by December 11, 2020. If you need technical assistance with your application or have questions about eligibility or the application process please contact OED at OED@seattle.gov or call 206-684-8090. Translation services are available in Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Amharic, and Somali. 

For additional COVID-19 relief resources and services please visit the City of Seattle's resource page.

Community Roots Housing Bill

In line with our COVID-related investments, this Wednesday the Housing and Finance Committee will be looking at a bill that would authorize a loan for Community Roots Housing (CRH), formerly known as Capitol Hill Housing. CRH is a Public Development Authority (PDA) of the City of Seattle, which means that they are not eligible to apply for federal COVID-19 aid or qualify for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program loan. Still we recognize that as a community partner and housing provider with a portfolio of over 1300 rent- and income-restricted units, it is in our best interest to support them during this crisis.
 
The COVID-19 crisis has impaired their collected revenues from both commercial and resident tenants and is expected to be a potential loss of $3.2 million. CRH has taken steps to mitigate this loss, however the shortfall still leaves them close to $1 million short. As we take steps to provide direct relief to residents and small businesses, we recognize the importance affordable housing providers have in preventing an increased in unhoused neighbors during this time. We’re intent on making sure our public spending is focused on individuals who are struggling during these twin crises of health and economic impacts due to COVID-19. I see this as a clear part of our efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis, but we know that our efforts can be amplified through governmental assistance.
 
This is also why we are stressing rent and mortgage relief as a necessary part of Council’s upcoming state legislative agenda, which passed unanimously yesterday. Many across Washington State are suffering through this crisis and we look forward to working with our colleagues down in Olympia to see relief come quickly for those who need it most.

Upcoming Energy Efficiency Legislation

As we move past our budget season, we are shifting our sights on the required Seattle Building Code updates. These updates are required every three years in line with the state codes and ensure our next generation of homes and businesses are even better than the last.  Last week, Mayor Durkan announced that the upcoming energy code update will eliminate the use of fossil fuels in most commercial and mixed-use buildings. The key changes currently in the draft code include: 

  • Eliminates the use of gas and most electric resistance applications for space heating 
  • Eliminates the use of gas for water heating in large multifamily buildings
  • Raise standards on building exteriors to improve energy efficiency
  • Ensures new buildings are solar ready

Given our growing wildfire season as well as the need to improve ventilation in light of COVID-19, I look forward to supporting policy changes that will improve indoor air quality and reduce the cost of heating and cooling our homes. We will be taking up the legislation officially in January. My office is doing the due diligence to make sure this transition away from fossil fuels is a just one that takes into account the need to support our community partners through the financial impacts of these changes.

The shift to all-electric in our new buildings means we get closer to our goals in the Seattle Green New Deal. But not to be overlooked is our walls, or more specifically, how efficiently they use heat. To explain the technical bits of this a little more, I thought I'd share this great video "Passive House in 90 Seconds," that shows how a super-efficient building can reduce energy use in a building by up to 90%. Passive house projects also have dedicated air-conditioning, something that is welcome as summer will be here soon enough. 

Guest Editorial: Personal COVID Trauma

This is a guest editorial from Nicole Gomez, a community leader, healthcare advocate and Chair of the 36th District Democrats, from a post she shared last week about the personal toll and impact of COVID-19, as well as some motivational words.
A thing I heard in WA Senate Ways & Means this week re schools & Covid hit me like a brick: child protective numbers hit a sharp decline since the pandemic began... not because crimes against children have gone down, but because our public school teachers are often the ones reporting the abuse and neglect. Not to mention all the other issues with remote schooling, like internet access, teacher fatigue, hard to find substitutes, learning loss, gaps, etc. (you imagine it and it was likely included), plus daycare issues and sharp decline in college enrollments.

That’s not even counting the issues with housing, unemployment and employment, health insurance coverage or lack thereof, the crumbling economic system, immigrants (ICE, health, employment issues, etc.), racial issues, police enforcement issues, overworked healthcare providers, small business concerns, and SO much more... I’m leaving out so much because it’ll be pages long. I can’t even remember what meetings were yesterday but I can remember the feeling after leaving them.

I spoke with my oldest sister this week. She’s near San Antonio. My nephew was hospitalized for four days there (he’s okay, we think, more to find out). But covid numbers are so high they don’t let family in. So she waited in the parking lot, essentially a covid family waiting lot, to find out if he needed to stay or could come home. While she waited, a woman in the car next to her got a call that her son died of covid. The wailing of that woman, she says, has woken her up in the middle of the night for the past week (which is slightly different from the usual PTSD our healthcare professionals experience, but only because it’s not normal for a layperson to deal with this trauma. Pin it for later, as healthcare professionals experience these things every day... except now at a massive scale). My sister, she didn’t know what was happening to my nephew, her son, and that was scary. She asks how we’re doing, and all I can say is, “thank goodness we have a governor that listens to public health professionals.” She wishes for what we have.

I’ve known many people that have died; and I’ve known many friends across the country with family that has died, some with multiple family members that have passed on, some within less than a day or two between each death (over two in the same family). And those are just the deaths, we still don’t know the long term effects but we do know it can impact multiple body systems...

Tonight for the first time (aside from a few times this summer, my kiddo’s birthday evening, thanksgiving, and the three days I took off for thanksgiving) since the start of session in January, I sat at the table to eat dinner with the kiddo and spouse, not at my desk... it’s as if we’re alone, together.

All this to say two things: 1) show grace, and 2) show empathy. Don’t worry about what others are or are not doing. Do you.

Sometimes, we need to read the room and realize that the dumb shit is just that. No. One. Has. Time. For. It. Move on. Prioritize. Move forward. Move swiftly. Move innovatively. Move lovingly. Move boldly. It’s not easy, I get it. But it’s all we can do.

Onward.

- Nicole Gomez
In solidarity,
Teresa Mosqueda
#BlackLivesMatter

Seattle City Council Councilmember, Position 8
teresa.mosqueda@seattle.gov
206-684-8806
Copyright © 2020 Seattle City Council, All rights reserved.


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