Dear Friends, 

Each week that I write to you we move one step closer towards recovery and reopening as we make our way through Washington’s “Safe Start” plan. As I mentioned last Friday, Governor Inslee announced updated parameters for counties to move from Phase 1 into Phase 2 – and I am happy to say that San Juan County has been approved to move into Phase 2.

This means that many businesses can begin to reopen once they’ve met all safety criteria designed to mitigate further spread of COVID-19. Counties are only able to move into Phase 2 if there are fewer than 10 cases reported for every 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, and the additional safety measures will ensure that San Juan, and all Phase 2 counties, stay on that downward trajectory.

Here are the additional guidelines for businesses that are now able to reopen:

Unfortunately, Skagit County was not approved to move into Phase 2. Though the Skagit did not meet the 10 new cases over a 14-day period benchmark, overall cases continue to decline in the county, and it’s possible they will be able to reapply very soon.

It can be hard to find hope, but across Washington, and right here in the 40th LD, we are trending in the right direction. Together we will recover, we will reopen, and we will beat COVID-19.

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday.

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” 
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Weekly Trivia! 

We know that Washington, “The Apple State,” produces more apples than any other state in the country – but what four other fruits does Washington produce the most of in the U.S.? Keep reading for the answer!

Caring For Our Children 

This year will be remembered as one unlike any other. The world is changing before our eyes, and our children have had their worlds flipped upside down. We have all struggled with transitioning into social distancing, but our children, and our high schoolers in particular, deserve our love and care.

They’ve lost time with friends and hanging out after school, they’ve lost sports seasons and prom. Their shift into adulthood will be marked by this time, and we must do our part to help them through this.

The Washington State Department of Health recently published an article detailing steps we can take and ways that we can help. We must open our arms and embrace those who are struggling and need our love. Check out the article to learn more about ways to help your teenager now, and for the future.

Tele-Tuesday With Debra!

Thank you to everyone who came out to my virtual kitchen table this Tuesday to discuss housing and homelessness here in Washington during the time of COVID-19.

It was so great to hear from all of you and answer your questions directly, and I’m grateful that you took time out of your day to join me as we discussed how we can best move forward and ensure that affordable, quality housing is available to all who call this place home.

I want to give a special shout out to Greg Winter, Lisa Byers, and Representative Nicole Macri for joining me. Speaking to any one of these three is always a pleasure, and having us all together to address housing and homelessness in Washington State made for an incredible event. Thank you so much!

Click the picture above to watch the event, and be on the lookout for more info on my next Tele-Tuesday!

Yakima Valley Workers’ Strike

For the past few weeks, workers at multiple fruit-packing warehouses in the Yakima Valley have been on strike. They’ve been asking for improved workplace safety and greater transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, they headed to Olympia to demand a response to their ongoing strike.

This is an issue very near to my heart. For so many of us it is easy to accept that food will make it to our table, but we must do everything in our power to ensure that those who take the steps to get that food from the field where it grows onto our tables are safe and healthy.

Last Friday, we talked about the work my colleagues and I have been doing to bring greater protection to our farm and food workers, most notably that the Farm Bureau is delivering 15,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, with 9,000 more gallons coming to our migrant farm workers.

We know that this is not enough, and we continue to fight day in and day out to get our farm and food workers the support they need and deserve. Their work is the bedrock of our communities, and we must lift them up during this difficult time.

Providing Assistance To Our Farmworkers 

The Housing Authority of Skagit County has special funds available right now through the County that are specifically for helping farmworkers and their families with housing needs.

Our farmworkers who are homeless or about to become so are able to stay in a hotel for a number of weeks – this program is designed to be quickly administered to help those most in need.

Please reach out to Aileen Gonzales at 360 428-1959 ext. 200 for more information, and please pass this information along to anyone who might need it – the definition of farmworker in this context is rather broad, and this program can help many people who work in the food supply chain.

Yesterday I had the incredible opportunity to distribute 3,500 gallons of hand sanitizer to farms and farmworkers with the Washington State Farm Bureau at the Conway Feed. 

With open arms I’ve set the table and brought together all those who can play a part in getting our farmworkers the supplies they need. This is just the beginning, and I will continue working to ensure that those who help put food on our tables remain safe and healthy.

Calls To Extend Eviction Moratorium 

Last month, Governor Inslee extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and expanded those protected under his order. The moratorium is set to expire next week, on June 4th, and groups and individuals across Washington State have come together to urge Governor Inslee to extend the moratorium. 

170 organiations and 502 individuals from across Washington have signed a letter urging Governor Inslee to extend the freeze on evictions statewide, among other requests to address housing in our great state. For more information visit the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance website. 

Wide access to affordable, quality housing is an absolute priority of mine. Nobody should have to deal with the pain and pressures of losing their home in this difficult time, and I will always work to ensure that all who want to are able to call this place home.

Skagit and San Juan Spike in Unemployment

Unemployment rates are higher than ever across the country as a result of COVID-19, and as we begin to reopen Washington State under the “Safe Start” plan we are starting to see the full extent of just how hard we Washingtonians were hit.

Recent numbers released by the Washington State Employment Security Department give a snapshot of first time filers for unemployment between March and May of this year. San Juan County saw the fourth highest rate in Washington, while Skagit County saw the sixth. In both counties, more than 25% of the February workforce filed for unemployment.

Many of these jobs will return as counties move through the “Safe Start” plan and businesses reopen, but we must see this as an opportunity to critically evaluate our system of unemployment in Washington State.

The Employment Security Department (ESD) has also reported an uptick in fraudulent filings for unemployment and that tens of thousands of people have had unemployment claims made in their names, which costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars. This has prompted the ESD to begin manually reviewing unemployment claims, creating a bottleneck and preventing those who most need our support from getting the funds they need.

We must ensure that proper systems are put in place, and that we are able to filter out fraudulent claims and get unemployment funds to those who need it most.

Representative Beth Doglio’s Kickoff! 

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of joining Representative Beth Doglio (virtually!) as she kicked off her campaign to represent Washington’s 10th District in Congress.

Representative Doglio currently serves in the State House with me, representing the 22nd LD since 2017. I have always counted her as a dear friend and ally, working hand in hand on protecting our environment and helping our great state.

Beth will be a tremendous voice in Congress for the people of Washington, and I am proud to support her campaign! Check out her website to learn more about what she stands for.

Alcoa’s Intalco Plant 

The loss of 700 jobs from the closure of the Intalco plant in Ferndale, Washington is heartbreaking. The smelter is one of only a handful left in the country, and it is necessary not just for the production of aluminum, but for the sustenance of the community that it employs.

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, along with Congressman Rick Larsen and Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia urging him to review the recently filed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) petition, and to ensure that the trade-affected workers receive the assistance they need.

If certified through the TAA petition, workers can receive retraining and employment resources that will help them get back on their feet.

My heart goes out to those who will lose their jobs as the plant closes, and I will do everything in my capacity to support you as you obtain new employment and seek to maintain your financial stability. Thank you to Congresswoman DelBene, and all members of Washington’s Congressional delegation, for your work to help those impacted.

Endorsement Shout Outs!

I cannot express how deeply grateful I am to have so many fantastic people and organizations endorse my first re-election campaign. It means so much that you place your faith in me, and that you put your support behind my campaign. I work every day to make you proud and help this place we all call home.

Thank you to Dennis McLerran – the former Region 10 Administrator of the EPA under the Obama Administration – John Hoyt, and Jay Manning for your endorsements! It was such a pleasure seeing you last week, and I appreciate your dedication to protecting this beautiful place for today and tomorrow.

Similarly, thank you to the Washington Conservation Voters, the Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Environment and Climate Caucus of the Washington State Democrats for endorsing my campaign! Together we will make sure that our incredible ecosystems and wildlife are preserved for seven generations to come.

Trivia Answer!

In addition to apples, Washington produces the most raspberries, pears, cherries, and Concord grapes in the United States!