The coronavirus outbreak has now hit Thurston County. Thousands of county residents are at risk of contracting the disease and suffering the economic fallout of its rapid spread.
Many local residents do not have the option of working from home. Service, retail and restaurant employees, gig economy workers, those employed in the entertainment industry, small businesses and others stand to lose their jobs and incomes in the midst of this crisis. With job loss and work-hour cuts, we can expect significant economic instability, from evictions and foreclosures to a severe lack of childcare and affordable, healthy food for families. Moreover, as the latest Point-In-Time census indicates, many of our neighbors are living outside without any access to bathrooms or running water to wash their hands.
We urge Thurston County, the municipal governments of Olympia, Lacey, Yelm, Tumwater, Tenino, Rainier and Bucoda, the Port of Olympia, the State of Washington and any other government agency or school district serving Thurston County to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents by meeting the following demands:
Right to Stay (Shelter in Place)
- Enact emergency moratoriums on mortgage and rental payments, foreclosures, evictions, tenancy terminations and late fees–for both residential and commercial tenants or properties. Any increases in housing instability and houselessness will greatly exacerbate the impact of COVID-19.
- Halt all utility shut-offs. Households must have running water, sewage, garbage disposal, heat, electricity and internet. A moratorium on utility shut-offs must be maintained through the duration of the crisis.
- Immediately cease all displacements of houseless peoples. Suspend any ordinances that displace and/or punish houseless people living in public spaces, including public camping bans, no sit/lie rules or parking restrictions that target RV or other vehicle dwellers.
- Ensure public sanitation for all. For every public bathroom lost due to closures of public buildings, libraries or service providers, an equivalent number of temporary bathrooms must be opened. Public bathrooms should be open on a 24/7 basis. Houseless camps must be provided bathroom and sanitation services, like hand-washing stations.
Emergency Housing & Resource Centers
- Repurpose any underutilized government buildings and schools as emergency housing, childcare centers and distribution sites. Partner with regional food banks and grocery stores to provide scatter-site food, sanitary and survival supply distribution centers at these sites, and delivery services. Access to resources should not be restricted by income, residency or citizenship status.
- Contract with motels, Airbnb hosts, and regional government partners to house houseless families, any immunocompromised houseless people, and unsheltered people needing to self-quarantine while recovering from COVID-19. If necessary, employ eminent domain powers to secure housing.
Protect Jail Inmates
- Immediately reduce county and municipal jail populations. Excepting the most serious crimes – murder, kidnapping, domestic violence and rape – people who are arrested or going in front of judges, and prisoners awaiting trial should get released on personal recognizance. Prisoners on work release or with 90 days or less remaining on their sentence should be released. Those with more than 90 days remaining should be judged on a case by case basis as to whether they should be released.
- The highest quality of healthcare must be extended to all remaining inmates, including preventive care with regards to the coronavirus.
Emergency Income Support
- Provide weekly stipends to parents without childcare. Even with paid sick leave benefits, many of these parents will not have enough income to support their families.
- Provide income to any workers or business owners who have experienced lost hours or income because of COVID-19. Artists, creative workers and gig workers may have a difficult time accessing extended unemployment benefits. Moreover, county residents receiving unemployment benefits must be granted supplemental income to ensure affected workers are paid a living wage.
Health and Wellbeing
- Leverage resources to support free clinics and outreach-based medical volunteers (volunteer nurses, doctors, and first-aid/wound-care specialists). Strengthen syringe exchange and harm reduction services.
- Leverage resources to increase access to free mental health and grief support, like hotline services.
Go to www.olywip.org for a full list of signers.