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COVID-19: Where Things Stand as of May 6, 2020

May 6, 2020  by  Steve Gross
Category:  Open Public Meetings Act Utilities - Billing and Collection Public Records Act COVID-19

COVID-19: Where Things Stand as of May 6, 2020

Along with our residents and businesses, local government agencies in Washington State have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at MRSC we’ve received over 325 inquiries just on issues related to COVID-19. Add to that the “normal” questions about finance reporting, budget, purchasing, MRSC Rosters, comprehensive plan updates, and public records, and it is clear to us that local agencies are adjusting, adapting, and aggressively working to serve their communities.

What’s the Latest?

As of 11:00 AM Wednesday, May 6, 2020, here is what we know.

Regarding the stay-at-home order

“Stay Home-Stay Safe” is still the order of the day. Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-25.3 on May 4, which extended the stay-at-home order until May 31 while making adjustments for certain low-risk businesses and allowing counties under 75,000 population with no new COVID-19 cases in three weeks to apply for a variance to allow additional businesses to reopen. Counties eligible to apply are Columbia; Garfield; Jefferson; Lincoln; Pend Oreille; Skamania; Wahkiakum; Kittitas; Ferry; and Grays Harbor. 

Essential services (shown in the guidance bulletin listing additional essential services) are still permitted. Restrictions on certain construction activities have been lifted, as shown in the Phase I Construction Restart COVID-19 Job Site Requirements (April 23) and the Addendum on Implementation of Phase I Construction Restart (April 29).

Proclamation 20-25.3 also allows phased opening of some types of businesses before May 31. Examples include allowing retail stores to do curbside pickup, as well as letting automobile sales and car washes resume business, with some restrictions. The governor also intends to allow drive-in spiritual services. See Washington's four-phased approach to reopening and view the COVID-19 Risk assessment dashboard.

In addition, Proclamation 20-25.2 permitted certain outdoor recreational activities to resume as of May 5 so long as participants fully comply with the specified social distancing and hygiene requirements. This includes hunting, fishing, and boating; outdoor exercise; golfing; and day use activities at public parks and public lands. The majority of state parks are now open for day use, although some state parks remain closed. Some local agencies that had closed their parks reopened them, effective May 5.

Specific to local government operations

For local agency operations, with legislative leadership's concurrence, the governor issued Proclamation 20-28.2 on May 6. It extends the Open Public Meetings Act provisions in Proclamation 20-28 and 20.28.1 until May 31. The Public Records Act (PRA) waiver of the 5-day response requirement is only extended by one week, until May 11, but the remaining waivers under the PRA are extended until May 31. We track this and other issues that affect your day-to-day operations on the COVID-19 Operations and Personnel Issues page.

With the legislative leadership’s concurrence, the governor issued Proclamation 20-34.2 on May 5, which extended until May 31 the period by which agencies must file their annual financial reports under RCW 43.09.230. While it is possible that the governor and state legislative leaders might extend this proclamation further, we encourage all agencies that are able to meet the May 31 filing deadline to do so.

Regarding evictions and utilities

Under Proclamation 20-19 and Proclamation 20-19.1, residential and commercial evictions, as well as rent increases or threats to increase rent for residential tenants and for commercial tenants who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, are prohibited until June 4, 2020.

With the legislative leadership’s agreement, the governor issued Proclamation 20-23.3, which extends Proclamation 20-23.2 until May 31. This proclamation prohibits telecommunications, energy, and water providers from (1) disconnecting residential service due to nonpayment, (2) refusing to reconnect residential customers who were disconnected due to nonpayment, and (3) charging late fees or reconnection fees.

Additional items

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect April 1 and expires December 31. All local agencies should make sure their leave policies have been temporarily updated to incorporate the FFCRA. More details are available on our MRSC Insight blog, New Federal Laws Support Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

As new guidance is issued by state agencies, we will add it to our COVID-19 Governor's Proclamations and State Guidance page.

For the latest information that we have available, please look at our page on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Local Governments.

All of us at MRSC appreciate the support we’ve received from our partners and from all of you as we ask for sample documents and for you to share your experiences during this extraordinary time. 

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Steve Gross

Steve Gross joined MRSC as a Legal Consultant in January 2020.

Steve has worked in municipal law and government for over 20 years as an Assistant City Attorney for Lynnwood, Seattle, Tacoma, and Auburn, and as the City Attorney for Port Townsend and Auburn. He also has been a legal policy advisor for the Pierce County Council and has worked in contract administration.



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