COVID-19 Report from Greater Seattle

By Brian P. McGowan, CEO, Greater Seattle Partners

First hit by problems with the manufacturing supply chain and drop in demand for exports due to the epidemic in China, the greater Seattle region now faces a massive hit to its tourism, retail, services, and hospitality sectors caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. But the collaborative effort of business and government could mean getting back to business much more quickly than expected.

Seattle’s largest employers listened to the advice of public health officials and voluntarily directed employees to work remotely to provide for social distancing. Other employers and governments soon followed suit. But moving all those people out of their offices meant that hourly workers who drove shuttles, provided security, and served food in the employee cafeteria were not needed. Companies agreed to pay them anyway and are considering redirecting those workers to help feed school children who are without meals due to statewide closures.

Local small businesses dependent on the lunch trade around those companies began to suffer. Amazon pledged to donate $5 million to small businesses around its Seattle and Bellevue facilities that will be impacted by thousands of tech workers telecommuting. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue will be eligible to apply for cash grants. The City of Seattle also provided $1.5 million in emergency funding for affected small businesses.

For those who must be laid off or quarantined, the state relaxed the rules for receiving unemployment compensation. Washington State also offers 12-16 weeks of paid family and medical leave, which is available to most workers in the state and funded by a payroll tax on businesses with more than 50 employees. In addition, the private and non-profit sectors are also donating upwards of $10 million to provide operating grants to community organizations to address the economic impact of reduced and lost work among immigrant communities and gig workers.

Article provided by Brian P. McGowan, CEO, Greater Seattle Partners

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