Mayor Jenny Durkan announced an emergency order over the weekend that suspended residential evictions related to not paying rent (as opposed to someone getting kicked out of a unit for other reasons) for 30 days. It was a significant move in a time when many have lost their jobs and many more are likely to lose their jobs soon.
Yesterday, the Seattle City Council met via conference call and voted to approve and expand Durkan's moratorium. They also expanded paid sick and safe leave benefits for Seattle employees.
The council's amendments to the mayor's emergency order included:
• Stretching it beyond 30 days, all the way until the outbreak has ended or until the council ends the civil emergency order that Seattle is currently under
• Protecting against all types of evictions—not just payment-related—in order to keep people inside and safe
• Increasing rental assistance funds
• Asking the King County Sheriff's Department not to carry out any eviction orders while the moratorium is in effect
• Extending the moratorium to include commercial tenants
The last amendment was a sticking point for the council, not because they didn't want to help out commercial tenants (i.e. businesses), but because the mayor's office announced during the meeting that they would be making moves on a commercial eviction moratorium independent of the council's action. (The mayor had not touched on this particular issue in her executive order—which the council only has the authority to ratify and confirm, modify, or reject.)
Judging from the debate that occurred during the meeting, council members did not receive a heads up about the mayor's future executive order concerning a commercial rent moratorium. The question that remained—and was presumably discussed when the council went into a two-hour-long, closed-door executive session—was whether the council could actually amend the current executive order so much so that it surpassed what the mayor had outlined.
So they want to go into executive session with the City Attorney's Office to discuss that question. But first they need to find out whether they can get the right people there to do that. (they probably can; they have other exec session topics already scheduled)
— SCC Insight (@SCC_Insight) March 16, 2020
Eventually, the council came back. They proposed only covering small businesses and non-profits in their eviction moratorium amendment. But that prompted even more discussion. Eventually, they decided to pull the amendment entirely and wait until the mayor's executive order regarding a commercial rent moratorium was in front of them to amend that.
As a result, only the current residential eviction moratorium was expanded upon and passed by the council.
Additionally, the council expanded paid sick and safe leave for workers.
During yesterday's meeting, the Seattle City Council passed a law that will allow people to take paid sick and safe leave from work if a family member's school or place of care is closed. Essentially, parents will be allowed to tap into their paid sick time if child care dries up because of school or daycare closures—as is happening all over right now because of the pandemic.
Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Teresa Mosqueda added in an amendment that made clear "this is not just about the pandemic," Pedersen said, "but will go beyond that." The rule will remain in place beyond the COVID-19 outbreak. That means, for example, parents could get paid leave during a snow day.
The law will also cover places that close on their own to close, not only places ordered to close by a government official. This includes businesses as well as schools and places of care.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted in support of the bill. She saw it as an improvement but said she recognized that the amount of paid leave for workers "is not enough time in normal circumstances and is certainly not in the context of a pandemic."