Newsletter March 19, 2020

  • Legislature wraps up business amid COVID-19 fears
  • We’re all in this together – How retailers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Retailers step up to the challenge of stopping the coronavirus
  • WR creates an online COVID-19 Retailer Resource Guide
  • Federal disaster loans come available for virus-related business losses
  • Governor, Health Department have COVID-19 updates
  • Legislature adjourns approving $200 million to fight coronavirus
  • Session roundup from The Lens
  • Safety Tip of the Week
Legislature wraps up business amid COVID-19 fears
Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

Amid growing fears with the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 Washington State Legislature adjourned and headed home in haste.

The short, supplemental 60-day session was originally billed by the majority party as a minor adjustment to policy decisions from 2019 and if needed, slight tweaks to the 2019 Biennial Operating Budget. It ended up being far from that. In the first two weeks hundreds of new bills were introduced in addition to the thousands of bills retained from last session that didn’t make it. Hearings and executive action started almost immediately and didn’t let up until the end.

Probably most disappointingly, the majority party took the opportunity of correcting a severely flawed Business and Occupation Tax increase bill from last session to expand its scope and increase taxes an additional $200 million. WR opposed the original bill in 2019 and the unwarranted expansion in 2020. What is most disturbing is that our state had been awash in unanticipated revenue collections. The last revenue forecast put us ahead by hundreds of millions of dollars. 

That’s enough to fund the Governor’s entire supplemental budget, put millions away in our rainy-day fund and give taxpayers some relief with property taxes. This wasn’t the case. Sadly, the budget passed the final days of session on a largely party-line vote. The one unanticipated appropriation that hit at the end was the COVID-19 response, which started at $100 million and soon ballooned to $200 million and speculation is that it won’t be enough. 

We’re all in this together – How retailers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

In recent weeks many businesses and retailers have had to make some tough decisions in response to the COVID-19 situation. We are living in unprecedented times where everyone will have to make adjustments to their daily lives to help protect the most vulnerable people in our population.

More than any other industry the retail sector has had to step up and adjust policies to provide critical supplies to consumers in need, and also to protect their workers who are on the front lines risking their own health to support their communities.

Many stores selling non-essential goods have made the difficult decision to shut down operations for a period of time to allow for social distancing measures to take place. Other stores that remain open are adjusting hours to allow for more cleaning, sanitation and stocking to occur.

Some stores are even offering special hours for older adults, pregnant women and those at higher risk for health complications to come shop in a more comfortable and less-crowded environment. Despite how dire the situation may feel at times it is also bringing people together in new ways.

Not in the physical sense, of course, but in the ways we are communicating and helping one another. The next time you head out shopping consider asking a family member or neighbor if you can get anything for them, especially if they are in a higher risk group. Also make sure to bring some extra patience and thank those store employees for their service during this time. We’re all in this together.

For a list of stores providing special hours see article here on USA Today.
Retailers step up to the challenge of stopping the coronavirus

The novel coronavirus has been bringing out the best in retailers who have been reacting with creativity in helping to provide for their customers while taking steps to protect them from infection.

In a statement , Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said the retail industry is reacting to the pandemic as an opportunity to help the federal government in its efforts to provide essentials while working to protect customers from unnecessary interactions in public.

Beyond the common advice of regular hand washing, social distancing and school closures, retailers are adapting in a rapidly-changing environment:

  • Walmart, the nation’s largest retailers, has turned to its robust e-commerce capability to enable shoppers to remain home while ordering food and supplies from its stores.
  • Amazon has made a priority of medical supplies and household staples, putting shipments of other goods on hold to focus on key items during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Retailers such as Macy’s and Goodwill are among a long list of companies that have elected to temporarily close their stores to help ensure the health and safety of their customers.
  • Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have volunteered the use of their parking lots for health care workers to set up stations to test people for infections.
  • Best Buy has seen an uptick in sales of devices to make it easier to work from home; items such as keyboards, monitors, webcams and laptops.
  • Safeway and Albertson’s stores have established exclusive early-morning grocery shopping hours to protect the population most vulnerable to infections from the illness.

These examples are just the highlights of adjustments retailers have made and will continue to make across the nation to meet the needs of customers while taking necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Click here to review a more comprehensive list of retailers and the adjustments they are making.

Washington Retail will continue monitoring and reporting on how the industry is changing to ensure the safety and preparedness of the nation. 
WR creates an online COVID-19 Retailer Resource Guide
Look for our related social media updates as well 

WR has created an online COVID-19 Retailer Resource Guide to help members keep up with developments regarding the virus and learn about resources they may need to adjust to the outbreak.

We will be updating the site as information develops.

Please share the link to the page with retail employers or employees you know so that we might reach as many people as possible with valuable information. The situation is changing rapidly and requires quick action to protect the health and safety of people throughout the State of Washington and beyond.

We also maintain social media accounts with Twitter ( @waretail ),  Facebook LinkedIn  and  Instagram  and regularly post updates on those sites. Our followers among Seattle retailers also can follow us on Twitter  @RICSeattle .
Also, please make sure that your friends and acquaintances in retail know about our social media profiles. Please encourage them to connect with us.  
Federal disaster loans come available for virus-related business losses

Businesses in need of disaster loans as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Washington State are invited to apply to the federal Small Business Administration.

The SBA is offering qualified applicants low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital. You may download a factsheet to learn more and apply here online .

For more information, reach SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email . Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339.
Governor, Health Department have COVID-19 updates

The state Health Department has established a toll-free call center for people with questions about the novel coronavirus present in Washington State and the nation.
The number is 1-800-525-0127.

The Health Department website includes links to helpful information regarding symptoms and resources available to get help if it is necessary.

The Governor’s Office also has a website with referrals for help reacting to the virus. Go here for information and updates. 
Legislature adjourns approving $200 million to fight coronavirus

State legislators adjourned the 2020 session last week by increasing spending in the state budget by $1 billion while approving $200 million in funds to respond to the coronavirus emergency.

Funds for the virus included $175 million from state savings to state and local agencies fighting the disease and a $25 million fund to help businesses threatened by a resulting loss of income. Democrats have majorities in the state House and Senate and budget approval was largely along party lines.

Washington Retail has scheduled its lobbyists to report on outcomes of key bills of interest to retailers in a free 10 a.m., April 1 webinar. Register for it here .

Here is a summary of outcomes for key bills upon which Washington Retail either testified or monitored with reports to the membership:

  • Senate bill 6281, data privacy. The House and Senate could not agree on language to protect private consumer information while extending rights to remove such data from company databases or prohibit the sale of the information to third parties. It resulted in no final vote.
  • House bill 2948, King County head tax. The Legislature took no final action on a bill to tax King County employees making at least $150,000 to raise funds to address homelessness.
  • Senate bill 6182, closed captioning on televisions. The bill that would have required closed captioning on televisions in public places died in committee. It was more permissive than a Seattle ordinance requiring closed captioning on at least one specific model among many in showrooms throughout the city.
  • Senate bill 5323, plastic bag ban. The Legislature approved a bill banning most plastic shopping bags statewide. It is awaiting a response from Governor Jay Inslee. It prohibits smaller jurisdictions from passing distinct bag bans with different requirements or terms. It permits stores to charge small fees for paper or reusable bags.
  • Senate bill 6440, independent medical exams. Washington Retail opposed the bill as introduced. It would have severely limited the use of independent medical exams to verify workers’ compensation injury claims. A work group will spend the rest of the year studying how to proceed and report findings to the Legislature.

In the coming weeks, Washington Retail will produce a far more detailed members-only report on legislative outcomes and voting record.
Please share how COVID-19 is impacting your business?

Take our quick survey HERE to share your feedback.
Session roundup from The Lens

The online news source The Lens published a brief roundup summarizing results of bills considered during the adjourned 2020 Legislative session.

The story includes mention of new approved business and occupation taxes and a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags that has been sent to the Governor for possible future action.

The story also covers the failed low carbon fuel standard, a King County payroll tax that would have raised funds to address homelessness and failed bills meant to provide relief from the current cost of car tabs.

Safety Tip of the Week: Be vigilant about forklift safety

Forklift safety is important, in part, because it’s a necessary tool in many retail workplaces.

Many employees are injured after they mistakenly drive one off a loading dock or fall between a dock and an unsecured trailer. Other workers are hurt after being struck by a careless forklift driver or when they fall while standing on elevated pallets and tines. Most incidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and other machinery. You also need to consider the type of load, speed, incline and surface when operating a forklift. 

Washington Code, WAC 296-863 , states that forklift operators are required to first be at least 18 years of age, trained and certified.
The RS Safety Library has documents and videos to help you with forklift safety. Here is a 32-page guide on the safe operation of forklifts.

Just as pilots do a safety check before taking off, you should make sure a forklift is safe to use before you hop on. That includes whether the driver is properly trained or experienced.

Washington Retail employs Rick Means, Directory of Safety and Education, who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198 x118, or
WR diversity statement

It's essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people; creates a diverse workforce; fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued; partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities; and communicates these values with others.  

In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level. The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members and our community embrace these principles.
Washington Retail Staff