In this week’s update:
- Week 3 Recap
- COVID-19 Relief: Early Action Budget
- Speaking up for Health Care Worker Protections
- Advocating for Public Health Funding
- ACTION: Support ARNP Reimbursement Parity
- Upcoming Events: Lobby Day
Policy hearings continued this week, and WSNA weighed in on numerous bills. As a reminder, all hearings and meetings with legislators are taking place over Zoom and are being aired on TVW. WSNA’s 2021 Legislative Priorities are available online.
COVID-19 Relief: Early Action Budget
The House held a hearing this week on a $2.2 billion COVID-19 relief package that the legislature plans to pass as an early action budget. The majority of these funds are from federal CARES Act dollars. The package includes:
- $618 million for vaccine administration, contract tracing and testing (includes emphasis on helping school districts reopen safely)
- $668 million for schools as they resume in-person learning plus dedicated funding to help students catch up from learning loss during the pandemic
- $365 million for rental assistance to help tenants and landlords impacted by the pandemic
- $240 million for more than 12,000 small business assistance grants (administered through the state Department of Commerce)
- $70 million to assist undocumented immigrants who have been impacted by the pandemic, but do not qualify for federal or state assistance
- $26 million for food assistance to individuals and households in need
- $50 million in grants to help childcare businesses stay open and expand capacity
The funding for schools will be distributed to school districts – and offers an opportunity to support school nurses.
Speaking up for Health Care Worker Protections
On Thursday, WSNA nurses joined other health care workers in supporting SB 5190 which would provide health care workers with presumptive eligibility for workers compensation and unemployment benefits during a public health emergency. WSNA nurses shared their experiences with contracting COVID, running out of paid time off, and never being told by their employer that they could apply for workers compensation.
Senator Holy, who sponsored this bill, opened with remarks about how we give presumptive eligibility benefits to fire fighters and police for on-the-job illness and injury – and he said it is unconscionable that we do not have these same protections for health care workers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Inslee has directed the State Department of Labor & Industries to make health care workers eligible for workers compensation for COVID-19 related illness or quarantine. Yet, WSNA nurses around the state report that they are either not being told they can apply for workers comp or they are being discouraged from applying.
Advocating for Public Health Funding
For 20 years, WSNA has advocated for a stable, dedicated, and long-term funding source for public health. On Wednesday, WSNA’s Legislative & Health Policy Council Chair Justin Gill testified in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee on the Governor’s proposed Covered Lives Tax to fund Foundational Public Health Services, SB 5149 sponsored by Senator June Robinson. Justin spoke in support of the measure, but highlighted that the tax should not be passed on to consumers. Instead, Justin suggested that health insurance carriers should cover the cost since they are sitting on $4 billion in unrestricted surplus – rather than the cost being passed on to employers or individuals and families.
ACTION: Support ARNP Reimbursement Parity
This session, Senator Emily Randall is sponsoring a bill, SB 5222, to provide ARNPs with reimbursement. This bill has a hearing on Feb. 1 in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. Due to the remote legislative session this year, individuals can sign-in remotely to support this bill. NOTE: When signing-in, please leave the “organization” blank; do not put the name of your employer or WSNA in this box. This is so that your employer and WSNA can enter their official organizational positions on the record without confusion.
Instructions for signing-in:
SIGN IN SUPPORT: You can begin doing this right away, ability ends 1 hour before start of the hearing Monday, 2/1/2021 (by 12:30pm).
Start at this link: https://app.leg.wa.gov/csiremote/
1. Choose Senate
2. Choose Committee: Health & Long Term Care
3. To the right of the committee selection, Choose Meeting: 2/01/21 1:30PM
4. Select Agenda Item: SB 5222 ARNP Reimbursement Rate
5. Select Type of Testimony: I would like my position noted for the legislative record
6. Choose position: Pro
7. Fill out the remaining identifying information, leaving “organization” blank
Just like the legislative session, our Lobby Day will be held virtually this year. Legislators want to hear from you. Join us – your voice is more essential than ever.
February 4 WSNA Lobby Day
More information and registration links are here.
This event is for WSNA members only.
Please look for regular email updates on legislative action as the legislative session gets underway – we look forward to your participation in the process!