Hearth Insight
September 2020
President's Message
The Year of “COVID
If you are reading this, I congratulate you on surviving this Pandemic thus far! Covid 19 has shown us all how resilient we are as individuals, companies, and industry to stay focused and continue on in the American spirit to survive and thrive!

Much like Y2K the Covid crisis has been good for our industry. I always look for the positives in a negative situation. With Homeowners staying at home, they are find the nesting urge is to great to resist. They seem to be remodeling more, changing out old stoves and fireplaces at a record pace. Interest rates are staying at an all-time low which is allowing customers virtually free money to upgrade their homes and we need to be advertising and keeping our stock up ready for their business. Home owners today are looking for ways to save money and make their homes more livable as they are spending more time at home than ever before.

Now that Fall and busy season are here, I hope you are all able to rehire staff and get back on track for an outstanding season. If there is anything NWHPBA can do to help, please reach out to us and we will be there for you!

2020 Sale Thru Update
Currently the Sale Thru Extension is in the process of final review but we are still on HOLD. If there is a Sale Thru allowed given, we are in October already, the Sale Time could be very short IF we do get one at all. The decision will be released once the paperwork is recorded into Library of Congress. There are many rumors and what ifs going around. Please ignore them all and do not spread any yourself! When EPA announces their final decision you all will be the first know. Final Reminder as of May 15, 2020, no non 2020 EPA certified may be sold or displayed. If you are caught you can and will be fined severely!

2021 EXPO Nashville
Currently the 2021 EXPO is on! Registration and Hotel reservations are open. The Expo will be susceptible to rumors as well as there are many things it will take for the EXPO to occur. The best way to keep track of status of EXPO will be the National HPBA website. If any information you hear is not on the website please ignore it and do not spread it! National is doing everything they can to produce a safe and secure show for our industry. For those of you in the Builder supplier market, the IBS EXPO in Orlando is a go for 2021. Several of the large Fireplace Mfg’s are signed up for it already.

OCTOBER - Is“ National Fireplace Month”
Every October is National Fireplace Month! How cool is that to be in an Industry that has it’s very own Nationally recognized month! This years motto is “ Home Is Where the Hearth Is “

HPBA National will be conducting a national media relations and social media campaign called “Home is Where the Hearth Is“ encouraging people to make the most of their Fireplaces this season! They will also encourage the public to work with Specialty Hearth Dealers and NFI Certified Specialists on their Hearth projects. They will be offering Tips on making the most of their fireplaces during these uncertain times as well as offering a “ Playlist of the Best Songs to Enjoy Fireside! “they will also be asking people to share family fireside photos.

I encourage all dealers to take part in promoting National Fireplace Month and use several social media tools and logos offered by Nat’l HPBA available thru their website. Use these tools on your companies Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts etc. Use #NationalFireplaceMonth in all your posts and lets all make October a great sales and information month!
 
NWHPBA wishes you all Good Luck on a Super Successful 2020 Hearth Season!
 
Thank you,
Scott H. Ongley
President NWHPBA
Member Spotlight:
Warmstone Fireplaces and Design
Livingston, Montana
By Ron Pihl, Tulikivi Distributor
Company Name:

Company Birthdate/Year: 
1991

NWHPBA Member Type:
Retailer

Number of employees/installers/service techs/sales/sweep:
7
  • What do you do to separate your business from others? We sell and install Tulikivi Soapstone Masonry Heaters, soapstone countertops and provide design services in addition to standard wood and gas stove offerings.
  • What diversifies your business, product wise? Tulikivi Fireplaces and soapstone countertops.
  • What are customers telling you when they come in the shop? More customers are asking for wood burning products this year and many customers that have been delaying large purchasers are moving a head with their projects.
  • What trends do you see the next year? More of the same – customers are looking for security in uncertain times.

Personal Info:
  • How long have you been in the hearth business? Since 1982.
  • What got you started in hearth business? As a mason, I prepared hearths for clients with wood burning stoves in the early 80’s – this led to researching and getting training on building Masonry Heaters out of brick and stone. In 1991 I became a dealer for the Finnish Company Tulikivi – being a Nordic country the Finns had historical knowledge and experience with masonry heaters, which they prefer to make out of their native soapstone deposits. Soapstone has superior heater retaining properties and is suitable for mass production of their products and easy installations.
  • What has kept you in the hearth business? Customer satisfaction with masonry heaters.
  • Why are you a member of NWHPBA? I enjoy meeting and collaborating with others in the industry and keeping up with regulations and interacting with regulators.
  • Have you attended NWHPBA/HPBA Events? Yes, many times - catching up with old friends, seeing new products and, sick as this may sound, Government Affairs updates.
October is National Fireplace Month!!!
“Home is Where the Hearth Is”
“The hearth is the heart of our homes, and the fireplace is a symbol of safety in an ever-changing world. It can provide warmth, ambiance and a feeling of security,” said Jack Goldman, President and CEO of Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). “Especially this year, our fireplace will be a near constant companion as we stay at home more through working remotely, distant learning, binging TV, reading books, celebrating holidays and making new memories.”

October is #NationalFireplaceMonth, the ideal time to ensure your fireplace is in tip-top shape as you prepare for the great indoors over the next several months. HPBA encourages homeowners to have their fireplaces, vents and chimneys inspected each year by a specialist. 
ESD Updates for your Business
Dear Business Association, Organization and Business leaders, 

Could October really be later this week? That seems inconceivable, but, alas – the calendar is correct! With the accordion of time, it feels like so much has happened in so little time, but it also feels like it has been a very long journey. 

With that in mind, this week’s email includes:
  • An update on the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program rollout – including the amount we sent out in benefits last week
  • Excellent recognition of our national leadership at the annual conference for the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA)
  • The actual announcement of Washington state’s award as best community for military spouses from the Hiring Our Heroes event
  • ICYMI - Videos from the state legislative work sessions in which we participated in September:
  • Here’s the video from the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee meeting (ESD’s presentation is from about 48:00 to about 1:47). Many thanks to Chair Sells and Ranking Member Mosbrucker for the opportunity!
  • And here’s the video from an update we gave to the Senate Labor & Commerce committee last week (ESD’s presentation is from about 3:30 to 58:00). Many thanks to Chair Keiser and Ranking Member King for the opportunity!
  • A data update on our benefits paid and the number of people waiting for resolution
  • A quick update on appeals and our throughput with that part of the claims cycle
  • Thoughts on preparing for this week’s UI Trust Fund projections release

Please let me and our constituent response team know if you have any questions!

Thank you and have a great week,
Suzi LeVine
Commissioner, the Employment Security Department
Please follow me @ESDCommish
(pronouns: she/her/hers)
Legislative Update:
End of August Legislative and Regulatory Update
By Carolyn Logue, CA Logue Public Affairs

WASHINGTON STATE

  • Budget & Special Session: So far there does not seem to be any indication that the Governor will call Washington’s Legislature back into session despite pending actual cash deficits that could require the Governor to ask for double digit, across the board cuts in all state agencies. Pressure is building though since many of the across the board cuts would be devastating to programs that are needed during economic downturns. In addition, across the board cuts would hurt both K-12 and higher education.
  • Unemployment Insurance: The business community is continuing its push to get to the bottom of the unemployment insurance situations. While the Department continues to say they are catching up, we continue to hear that employees and employers are having difficulty getting benefits or answers to questions. Several things are happening:
  • Five audits are being conducted of the state unemployment insurance system by the state auditor’s office. Three of these are financial related to money that has come in and how it is spent. The other two are an audit of the Department’s internal IT controls and systems, particularly surrounding fraud and benefits; and a full performance audit of the mechanisms surround the Department’s procedures. We expect to start seeing results from the financial audits at the end of this year.
  • The Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee is underway. As a result of our letter to the Employment Security Department, they have reactivated the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee that was deactivated several years ago. This is a committee of both business and labor representatives who are specifically discussing the issues with UI. Two meetings have been held so far, mostly procedural or education regarding the UI tax system. We expect to see more substantive discussions in the next two meetings regarding the payment of benefits and the taxes/impact on employers of the UI Trust Fund not having enough months worth of money to pay those benefits. Without some significant change, employers will see significant increases in UI taxes next year, even if they did not have to lay anyone off.
  • The business community just sent a letter to legislators and the Governor asking for federal CARES act dollars to be used to backfill the UI trust fund to ensure payment of benefits and help businesses, particularly small businesses, avoid substantial tax hits for layoffs that were not the fault of the business. The UI Advisory Committee will be discussing this at the next meeting. As of this writing, we are still waiting for a response from legislative budget writers.
  • URGENT: All employers need to diligently watch for mail from the Employment Security Department regarding the charges to their UI account. You should be requesting relief from benefit charges for all COVID-related layoffs, particularly layoffs related to being shut down during the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders. This request should be done for any employee who collected unemployment insurance for any reason related to the pandemic.

  • Workers’ Compensation: Reports from L&I are starting to indicate issues in workers’ compensation that are concerning the business community. First is the impact of COVID-related claims to the system. About 3000 COVID-related claims have been accepted by the Department. Most of these are resolved fairly quickly and came at a time when other accident claims were down. The average cost of a COVID-claim is around $30,000, much less than the average time-loss claim cost of $75,000 but these are still additional dollars in costs to the system that were not expected. The real problem with workers’ compensation though is due to the business shutdowns. When whole industries were shutdown, this meant a significant reduction in the number of worker hours reported and thus a significant reduction in premiums to the fund. This has led to a precarious situation in one of the funds (the Supplemental Pension Fund or SPF). This is the fund that pays the COLAs for time loss and pension recipients and is a flat rate charge to employers – not experience rated. The SPF must carry a three month working capital to ensure it can meet its obligations. With the lack of premium paid coupled with a 6.7% statutorily defined COLA adjustment on July 1, this fund has seen a significant drop and rates may need to increase to build the fund up to the required levels. Various solutions being put forward could potentially raise SPF rates anywhere from 8-48%. One of the solutions the business community is looking at is the driver behind the COLA percentage. It is based on the increase in the state’s average annual wage which went up significantly this past year. We are exploring potential legislative solutions that could help avoid increases like this during economic downturns. We hope to avoid a significant increase in workers’ compensation premiums this fall.

  • New L&I web tool helps you choose the right face covering or mask: Choosing the correct mask for COVID-19 prevention at work just got easier and quicker if you use Washington State’s Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I’s) new  web-based e-tool  from your mobile device or computer. The e-tool is designed to help most businesses make informed choices based on the level of risk and whether users are working alone, indoors, outdoors, or in a vehicle. The e-tool also includes links to other helpful information including videos on how to correctly put on and remove masks, answers to common questions about masks and L&I’s “Which Mask for Which Task?” booklet.

  • Upcoming webinars provide details on Equal Pay and Opportunities Act: L&I will kick off later this month a series of webinars that will provide participants information on the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. The act, which took effect June 7, 2018, prohibits gender pay discrimination and promotes fairness among workers by addressing business practices that contribute to income disparities between genders. The 60-minute webinar will be presented by the equal pay specialist from L&I’s Employment Standards program, and includes the opportunity to ask questions. The session will cover an overview of the law, employee and job applicant’s protections under the law, L&I’s enforcement and investigation process and employer resources. The first webinar will be from 9-10 a.m. Aug. 27.
  • Additional sessions will be offered:
  • Sept. 15 from 9-10 a.m.
  • Oct. 29 from 9-10 a.m.
  • Nov. 19 from 9-10 a.m.
To register for a session, go to L&I’s calendar of workshops, events and webinars, and look
for “Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (Webinar)” in the “Event Title” pull-down menu, then click on
the “Sign Up” button.

IDAHO
  • Budget and Special Session: Governor Little has called the Idaho Legislature back in for a special session the week of August 24th. Unlike Washington State, special sessions are a rarity in Idaho. The session is expected to be limited only the issues of absentee ballots and polling locations during the pandemic and civil liability for COVID. The Civil Liability issue is one being supported by businesses as it would give them immunity from liability for COVID-related claims.

MONTANA AND ALASKA
  • Things seem to be quiet in Montana and Alaska right now.  
We want to hear from you!!!
The NWHPBA Communications Committee publishes the Hearth Insight monthly. If you have a story or article you would like to have shared, please email us to be included in our upcoming editions!!!
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