By Asha Inamdar
Ever Since COVID-19 first hit Washington state, it has been taking a series of steps to help assist businesses and workers, some of which are:
Relaxed Requirements on tax return payments
- The state encourages businesses to continue to file t timely returns, even if they are having trouble making payments.
- Monthly filers can request extension for payment by calling the WA state DOR.
- Quarter 1 return for the year 2020 can now be filed until June 30, 2020.
- Annual Return for 2019 could be filed until June 15, 2020
- Cancellations of prescheduled tax payments could be made by calling the DOR
- Tax assessments, warrants, notices etc. could be delayed until mid-April after which the DOR may revisit them.
- Payment plans could be requested with the DOR and penalties could be waived up to 30 or 60 days.
- Interest could be waived until April 17, 2020 which could extend further per DOR’s discretion. However, the penalties and interests accrued until end of February 2020 would not be waived, nor would any refunds be granted in this regard.
- Business License delinquency fee could be waived until April 17, 2020 which could extend further per DOR’s discretion for delayed license renewals. Similar rule applies to non-profit applications
Additional relief measures
The state is working with a lot of local financial institutions, banks, utility companies and even major employers for additional relief measures for WA state residents such as:
- Ability to defer payment on bills, waivers on interest for loans, waivers of other fees, obtain discounts etc.
- To sustain payroll, ability to obtain loans and forgiveness on late payment related penalties.
- Relaxed credit requirements for businesses so that they could keep their cash flow going.
Assistance to exporters
- With companies unable to hold trade shows, conferences or other business-related activities involving large groups of people during this pandemic, alternate markets are being suggested and STEP vouchers are being provided to businesses by the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Team division
- Working capital assistance is also being provided to eligible businesses through the SBA’s Export Working Capital Program
Insurance Coverage related assistance
- Businesses are encouraged to check if they had additional endorsement coverage which could cover COVID-19 related losses.
- Similar additional endorsement should be checked for event management businesses on their event cancellation insurance policy.
- The Washington State Insurance Commissioner could be reached at 800-562-6900 to answer any questions related to the above.
Assistance to employees and employers
- For employees or workers who have been laid off or are out of work due to the Stay- at- Home Order issued by the Governor on March 23, unemployment benefits could be claimed (except for critical infrastructure workers as defined). Employees need to state “laid-off” or “company temporarily closed’’ as their preferred options.
- Employees need not look for new work until notified.
- They could be under ‘standby status’ up to 12 weeks
- No need to wait until 1 week to claim unemployment benefits
- Employees who need time off due to a serious health issue or to attend to a family member with a serious health issue could be eligible for the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD)’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program (refer to https://paidleave.wa.gov/ )
- For Employers, there are a bunch of initiatives listed on https://www.doh.wa.gov/Coronavirus/Workplace
- Employers could use “Shared Work”( https://esd.wa.gov/SharedWork ), a flexible business program that companies could use as an alternative to laying off employees. Full-time employee hours could be reduced up to 50%, while letting them retain their unemployment benefits for the lost salary income.
- Employers who need to continue to carry on their business during this pandemic on a reduced time framework, could change the status of their employees to “Partial”. The employees under such status if hired as full-time workers or work for at least 16 hours every week or could resume employment within 4 months on a full-time basis would be barred from seeking work while being unemployed under this status.
- Employers could lay-off their employees temporarily. Such employees could be reinstated on payroll as long as they have been placed on stand-by for up to 8 weeks and have not needed to look for work elsewhere.
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