We know that business owners have a lot of questions about the rapidly evolving
COVID-19 situation in our community and around the world. We are here to help.
On this page, you can find resources and information about COVID-19.
DISCLAIMER: We will continue to update this page as information becomes available, but we cannot guarantee that all information will be up to date at all times. The information on this page is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice for your business, please contact us to find out about the services that we offer.
Washington residents: Do you need internet access? Click here to find a drive-in WiFi hotspot location near you.
P.S. If you're hungry, check out these women-owned Seattle restaurants that are offering takeout and delivery. And if you're in the mood for shopping, here are some Black-owned businesses and restaurants in Seattle that you can support.
Upcoming Dates and Deadlines
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) - The FFCRA was enacted to address the impact of COVID-19 on families and will be effective through December 31, 2020. The FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide eligible employees with 2 weeks of emergency paid sick leave and 12 weeks of emergency family and medical leave, and provides eligible employers with tax credits for providing these benefits.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) - Employers must provide eligible employees with up to 2 weeks (equivalent to 80 hours, prorated for part-time employees) of EPSL for employees who are unable to work or telework AND:
1. are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or stay at home order related to COVID-19;
2. have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
3. are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
4. are caring for an individual subject to an order described in reason 1 or self-quarantine described in reason 2;
5. are caring for their child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, for reasons related to COVID-19; or
6. are experiencing any other substantially similar condition as specified in the rules.
EPSL for reasons 1-3 is paid at 100% of the employee's regular rate of pay, capped at $511 per day and $5,110 over the 2-week period. EPSL for reasons 4-6 is paid at 2/3 of the employee's regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day and $2,000 over the 2-week period.
Expanded Family and Medical Leave (EFML) - Employers must provide eligible employees with 12 weeks of EFML.
EFML is only available to employees who are unable to work or telework due to the need to care for their child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 (reason 5 for EPSL). EFML is not available for any other reason, including if an employee or an employee's family member is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or any other reasons covered under the FMLA or any state paid family or medical leave.
EFML is paid at 2/3 of the employee's regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day and $10,000 over the 10-week period. The first 2 weeks of EFML is unpaid unless the employee chooses to use the 2 weeks of EPSL or other available paid leave concurrently with the first 2 weeks of EFML. FMLA leave for any other reasons remains unpaid.
Employer Tax Credits - Employers will receive tax credits for the full cost of FFCRA leave provided to employees. Eligible employers will claim credits on their Forms 941, but they may benefit from the credits more quickly by reducing their federal employment tax deposits. If there are insufficient federal employment taxes to cover the amount of the credits, eligible employers may request an advance payment of the credits from the IRS by submitting Form 7200.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may apply for an exemption from the requirement to provide EPSL for reason 5 and EFML if they are able to show that doing so would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. There is no exemption from providing EPSL for reasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 above.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) - Under the CARES Act, small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and nonprofits, may be eligible for SBA loans that are potentially forgivable up to 100% of the amount borrowed. There are two main types of loans that small business may be eligible to receive:
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) (including a $10,000 Emergency Economic Injury Grant based on $1,000 per employee, that does not have to be repaid). Click here to apply.
Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPP Loan), which provide up to $2 million in loans to pay for qualifying payroll costs (for compensation up to $100,000 per year per employee), including paid leave (other than FFCRA leave), employee benefits, severance payments, and state payroll taxes, and qualifying non-payroll costs, including rent, mortgage interest, utilities, and interest on EIDLs.
UPDATE: On June 5, 2020, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (PPPFA) was passed to make certain changes to allow more flexibility for borrowers of PPP loans, including extending the covered period for PPP loans from 8 weeks to 24 weeks and reducing the percentage of the total loan amount that is required to be spent on qualifying payroll costs from 75% to 60%, with the remainder of the loan required to be spent on qualifying non-payroll costs in order to be forgiven. Click here for the updated PPP loan forgiveness application.
Expansion of unemployment benefits, including an extra $600 per week in benefits for up to 4 months through July 31, an additional 13 weeks of benefits, funding the cost of the first week of unemployment benefits for states that have not already waived it, and making benefits available to independent contractors, gig workers, and self-employed individuals.
Employee retention credit for employers whose operations are fully or partially suspended or whose quarterly receipts have decreased by more than 50% compared to the same time last year. Employers in this situation may receive a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages up to $10,000 per employee paid during each quarter through 2020. Employers may not receive both a PPP loan and employee retention credits.
Washington State Resources
Beginning June 8, all employees are required to wear a cloth facial covering at work, with certain exceptions:
when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site;
if the individual is deaf or hard of hearing or has a medical condition or disability that makes wearing a facial covering inappropriate; or
when the job has no in-person interaction.
Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees.
As of June 24, every person in the State of Washington is required to wear a facial covering in any indoor or outdoor public setting. Details are available here.
As of July 7, businesses may not serve any customer who is not in compliance with the statewide facial covering requirement. What should you do if a customer refuses to wear a mask? Here are some best practice tips.
Employers must notify their local public health department within 24 hours if they suspect COVID-19 is spreading in their workplace or if they are aware of two or more employees who develop confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within a 14-day period.
Washington State Proclamations related to COVID-19 - Following the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington and around the world, Governor Inslee issued proclamations regarding school closures, limits on gatherings, and mandatory closures of certain businesses.
On May 1, 2020, Governor Inslee outlined the state's phased Safe Start approach for resuming recreational, social, and business activities. As of mid-June 2020, most counties in Washington are in Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan, with King County operating under a modified Phase 1 (detailed below). Each phase of the Safe Start plan will last for a minimum of 3 weeks and counties may apply to move into new phases when they meet certain criteria.
Phase 2: King County - King County is in Phase 2 of reopening, which allows for partial reopening of some businesses and activities. Details about what is open in each phase are available here.
UPDATE: On July 14, 2020, Governor Inslee extended his ban on further reopening until at least July 28 and warned that Washington could roll back the reopening progress that has been made to date.
Employees with increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 must be provided accommodations that protect them from risk of exposure to COVID-19 or, if accommodations are not feasible, must be allowed to use all available leave or unemployment insurance without risk of adverse employment action. Employers are required to continue health insurance coverage for these employees while on leave and return them to their position when they are able to return to work. These requirements will remain in effect through the duration of the current state of emergency initially proclaimed in Proclamation 20-05, or until otherwise rescinded or amended.
The CDC now categorizes employees as: (1) employees who are 65 years or older; (2) employees who are "at increased risk"; and (3) employees whose conditions "might [put them] at increased risk," but only if, based on the employee's medical circumstances and workplace conditions, the employee is in fact at increased risk. Click here for a list of individuals who are "at increased risk" or "might be at increased risk" for severe illness from COVID-19 due to certain underlying health conditions.
UPDATE: On July 29, 2020, Governor Inslee clarified that employers must not require verification from a medical provider when the employee either is 65 years or older or falls within the "at increased risk" category. Employers may require verification from a medical provider when the employee either falls within the "might be at increased risk" category or seeks to use any leave where a state or federal law or contractual obligation requires verification (e.g., paid sick leave, employer-administered paid leave, FFCRA leave, and unemployment insurance compensation).
Courts in Washington are mostly operating at limited capacity through September 30, 2020. For a list of emergency modifications to court operations, click here.
Unemployment Benefits - The Employment Security Department is waiving financial penalties for late filings and payment due to impacts of COVID-19. ESD also has options for businesses that need to reduce employee work hours, including flexible rules for unemployment benefits for workers under a shared work program, partial employment, and temporary layoffs:
If you need to reduce your employees' hours, apply for the SharedWork program, which allows employers to reduce hours by as much as 50% while their employees collect partial benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. Here is a chart that shows the amount of SharedWork benefits will be received based on the number of hours worked per week.
If you need to temporarily layoff of reduce your employees' hours, you may place them on standby, which means your employees may work on an "as needed" basis and collect unemployment benefits without having to look for other work. Either the employer or employee may request standby status, but an expected return to work date within 12 weeks must be provided.
If you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or self-employed and are unable to work due to COVID-19, you may qualify for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. Sign up for email updates from ESD here.
Labor and Industries - LNI's Employer Assistance Program provides employers with a 90-day, penalty- and interest-free grace period or payment plan for premium payments for employers facing financial difficulties during the pandemic.
If you are an essential business and your employee contracts COVID-19 at work and files a workers' comp claim, click here for answers from LNI to some common questions.
California State Resources
Courts in California are in varying degrees of closure or limited operations. Click here for a list of the latest emergency orders in response to COVID-19.
Los Angeles Face Mask Requirement - Effective April 10, 2020, under Mayor Garcetti's Worker Protection Order, workers at essential businesses in Los Angeles will be required to wear face masks and may deny service to customers who don't wear masks. Employers will be required to supply essential workers in Los Angeles with face coverings or reimburse employees for the cost, or face fines and jail time.
State Business Taxes - The Franchise Tax Board has extended the filing and payment deadline for most business taxes to July 15, 2020, to match the new federal tax filing deadline.
Unemployment Benefits - Employers experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day extension to file state payroll reports and/or deposit state payroll taxes without interest or penalties. The Employment Development Department also has options for employers that need to reduce employee work hours or temporarily shut down their business:
If you need to reduce your employees' hours, apply for the UI Work Sharing Program, which allows employers to reduce their employees' hours and wages while they collect partial unemployment benefits.
If you need to shut down your business in response to COVID-19, on March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom temporarily suspended the 60-day notice requirement under the California WARN Act. However, all other requirements of the California WARN Act remain in place. Click here for FAQs about the California WARN Act and COVID-19. Employers may receive assistance for a closure or major layoff through the Rapid Response program.