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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Declarations and Authority

This page provides examples of emergency declarations issued by local governments in Washington State in response to the 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), including relevant statutes.

It is part of MRSC's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Local Governments series.

Latest Updates

To help you keep track of the rapidly changing situation related to COVID-19, here is a summary of recent changes to this page:

Thursday, April 2

  • Added Kirkland ordinance temporarily making it a misdemeanor to knowingly violate a lawful order of a public officer at the federal, state, county or local level in direct response to a declared proclaimed emergency or disaster affecting the city.
  • Added Port of Port Townsend emergency declaration, including rent deferral program.

Tuesday, March 31


Overview

On February 29, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide emergency due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and the governor has continued to issue further orders limiting public gatherings and closing many businesses.

In addition, many local governments have also declared local emergencies, which allows local officials to bypass procedural requirements related to expenditures and contracting, among other things, as well as potentially accessing state and federal emergency funds if such funds are made available.

Practice Tips:

  • Local governments should carefully track all funds expended to combat COVID-19 in order to support any future reimbursement from state and federal sources.
  • Any purchase, public works project, or service for which a competitive process is waived must be an explicit necessity and directly related to the emergency. (For more information, see our Competitive Bidding Exemptions page.)
  • A memo issued by the Attorney General on March 17 concludes that generally speaking, local governments have broad authority to make expenditures combating COVID-19 without violating the gift of public funds prohibition because such efforts further fundamental public purposes such as protecting public health and welfare.

Free On-Demand Webinar

MRSC recorded a webinar on March 16 addressing some of the issues faced by local governments in Washington State due to COVID-19, including a section on local, state, and federal emergency powers (starts at 4:05). You may also download the slides*Some of the guidance regarding OPMA has been superseded by the governor's Proclamation 20-28, issued March 24.


Emergency Statutes

In Washington State, the Department of Health (DOH) and the local health boards and districts are responsible for health planning and are granted authority for emergency planning and response. The Washington State Office of the Attorney General developed a memorandum in 2008 – Public Health Emergencies – which details the authority of local health officers and boards as well as other local jurisdictions during public health emergencies.

Below are selected statutes related to local emergency declarations, emergency expenditures, and related topics.

General Legal Citations

  • Ch. 38.52 RCW — Emergency Management
    • RCW 38.52.070(2) — Emergency declarations for all "political subdivisions," defined in RCW 38.52.010 to mean "any county, city or town"
    • RCW 38.52.091 — Authorizes local emergency management organizations to collaborate with other public and private agencies via a mutual aid or interlocal agreement  
  • RCW 39.04.280 — Competitive bidding waivers for emergency public works and emergency purchases
  • RCW 39.80.060 — Emergency architecture and engineering contracts
  • Ch. 42.12 RCW — Continuity of Government Act in the event of enemy attack or catastrophic incident
  • WAC 246-100-070 — Enforcement of local health officer orders

City/Town Statutes - Nondebatable Emergency Expenditures

  • RCW 35A.33.080 — Code cities operating with an annual budget
  • RCW 35A.34.140 — Code cities operating with a biennial budget
  • RCW 35.33.081 — Non-code cities and towns less than 300,000 population operating with an annual budget
  • RCW 35.34.140 — Non-code cities operating with a biennial budget
  • RCW 35.32A.060 — Cities over 300,000 population

County Statutes

  • RCW 36.40.180 — Nondebatable emergency expenditures
  • RCW 36.32.270 — Competitive bidding waivers for emergency public works and emergency purchases (references RCW 39.04.280)

Examples of Emergency Declarations

Below are selected examples of emergency proclamations issued by cities, counties, and special purpose districts. These documents are provided as examples only, and this is not a comprehensive list of jurisdictions that have declared an emergency or the latest actions that those jurisdictions have taken.

If your jurisdiction has adopted policies, proclamations, or other documents related to COVID-19, please consider sending them to our librarian Gabrielle Nicas at gnicas@mrsc.org to share with other local government agencies.

Mayor-Council Cities

Council-Manager Cities

Towns

Noncharter Counties

Charter Cities and Counties

Special Purpose Districts

  • Covington Water District Resolution No. 4409 (2020) – Emergency declaration due to COVID-19; also temporarily suspends locking of meters, filing of liens, and certain fees until May 31, 2020.
  • Cowlitz County PUD No. 1 Resolution No. 2768 (2020) – Authorizes general manager to declare an emergency, waive competitive bidding requirements, require non-essential employees to be sent home, and establish a limited duration supplemental leave program for employees. (See "Employee Pay and Leave Issues" section below for the supplemental leave policy.)
  • Port of Port Townsend COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency (2020) – Emergency declaration by port district executive director, including commission resolution ratifying the declaration and authorizing rent deferrals up to 3 months for port tenants most directly impacted by COVID-19, provided that back rents must be repaid within 12 months.
  • Woodinville Water District Resolution No. 3959 (2020) – Emergency declaration due to COVID-19; addresses waiver of competitive bidding requirements, closures of public facilities, suspension of liens and water service termination, and steps to ensure uninterrupted operation of water and sewer systems.

Emergency Court Orders


Stay-At-Home/Shelter In Place Orders

On Monday, March 23, Gov. Inslee issued a statewide stay-at-home order for at least two weeks, with exceptions for essential industries and employees.

Below are examples of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders issued by local governments. For more information on what job functions are considered "essential," as well as examples of letters permitting essential employees to travel, see our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Operations and Personnel Issues page.

  • Anacortes Mayoral Directive to Stay Home (2020) – Directs residents to stay home except for essential business and governmental services and essential public infrastructure construction; includes examples of each category
  • Everett Mayoral Directive to Stay Home (2020) – Directs residents to stay home except for essential business and governmental services and essential public infrastructure construction; includes examples of each category
  • Kittitas County Stay-at-Home Order (2020) – Includes enforcement provisions/penalties and link to federal website for more information on what activities are essential.

Enforcement of Emergency Orders

  • Kirkland Ordinance No. O-4721 (2020) – Temporarily makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly violate a lawful order of a public officer at the federal, state, county or local level in direct response to a declared proclaimed emergency or disaster affecting the city. Expires April 30, 2020.

Last Modified: April 02, 2020