PORTLAND, Ore., August 30, 2022 -- Back-to-school season means a new class of fourth graders will soon be eligible to enroll in Every Kid Outdoors, a federal program which provides up to a year of free access to National Forests, National Parks, and other public lands for fourth-grade students and their families.
Beginning Sept. 1, fourth graders, parents, and educators can visit the Every Kid Outdoors website at www.everykidoutdoors.gov and learn more about how to obtain free entry to all federal lands, for fourth graders and their accompanying family members.
Students can obtain passes individually by completing a brief online activity. Educators who work with fourth graders can visit the site to download an educational activity guide, after which they'll be able to obtain vouchers for their students. Once printed, students and their families can also redeem the paper voucher for a durable, plastic pass at any Forest Service office where passes are sold. Passes and vouchers are valid for the entire school year, through Aug. 31, 2023.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently authorized updated COVID-19 boosters meant to protect recipients from common COVID-19 Omicron strains. The state Department of Health is planning a fall rollout for the updated booster.
Additions to Assistance Program Will Better Support
Low-Income Washingtonians Age 65+, Blind or Disabled
Effective Sept. 1, maximum payments to Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) Cash Assistance Program participants will increase thanks to funding from the state's 2022 supplemental budget. Individuals who are over 65, blind, or disabled often live on the margins of Washington communities. Increased payments and ongoing legislative focus may help support these vulnerable persons. This is the first increase in ABD grant amounts since 2011.
On Tuesday, President Biden announced details for the Student Debt Relief Plan, forgiving up to $20,000 in debt for Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation for non-Pell Grant recipients. This forgiveness could impact 40 million people across the nation and half a million Washingtonians, providing relief for low and middle-class borrowers.
The administration also granted an extension of the pause on federal student loan repayment through Dec. 31. Those potentially eligible for the PSLF waiver can visit this website by Oct. 31 to see if they qualify.
"My student loan plan makes sure working people have a shot at a college degree without the fear of being saddled with insurmountable debt," Biden said.
PULLMAN - Community specialists with WSU Extension are partnering with the Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) to enhance capacity by Washington communities, especially those in rural and remote areas, to provide better and more equitable access to reliable, high-speed internet.
Funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce, the one-year, $8 million statewide Broadband Action Team (BAT) Implementation and Support project aids county and community efforts with training, planning support, and resources coordinated through Extension offices to enhance internet access in underserved, primarily rural communities.
"As Washington state moves to ensure that all of our residents have reliable and equitable access to broadband service, community input is essential," said Lisa Brown, Washington Commerce Director. "Identifying local needs and gaps will help guide us to highest impact broadband infrastructure investments. WSU Extension is uniquely positioned to assist communities in this grass-roots effort to define what they need, and we're very pleased to partner in this important work to expand broadband access across the state."
Small business grants available through pandemic relief funds
Another round of state pandemic relief grants is on the way, with a focus on - but not limited to - the arts, heritage and science sectors, and businesses relying on Washington Convention Center events, such as theaters and live entertainment venues.
Applications for the Working Washington Grants: Round 5 and new Convention Center Grants programs open Wednesday Aug. 17. Together, these programs will distribute $75 million in pandemic relief grants to eligible small businesses and nonprofits across Washington.
The online commercegrants.com portal has guidelines and information to help applicants get ready to submit applications.
The Department of Revenue has launched the new website portal for the state's Working Families Tax Credit.
DOR estimates about 420,000 Washingtonians will be eligible to receive a check or direct deposit of up to $1,200. The credit will be available in the upcoming tax return season, and Washingtonians can check now to see whether they might be eligible for the credit at workingfamiliescredit.wa.gov.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 1297 and approved funding for the program in 2021. This is an ongoing program that will allow lower-income families to apply for a rebate every year. DOR will begin an outreach campaign later this year to make sure people are aware of the program and know how to apply.
Partisan Activists Post
Ballot "surveillance" Signs
in Attempt to Intimidate Voters
King County officials discovered and removed hostile signs placed near ballot boxes in the Seattle area, warning voters that the site was "under surveillance." The King County elections office immediately called for an investigation by the Sheriff's office. Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Attorney Nick Brown swiftly admonished the illegal tactic to intimidate voters.
Invasive Asian giant hornets pose a very real threat to people and pollinators if they propagate. Teams from the state Department of Agriculture continue to catch, track, and eradicate them. Local residents are helping the cause by reporting sightings.
Gov. Jay Inslee visited two helpful residents last Tuesday (July 12) who alerted WSDA after spotting the hornets near their homes. After a sighting, WSDA crews visit to trap a hornet, sedate it, tie a tiny transmitter to it, then release it. Later, crews trek through thick brush to locate the nest, then don sting-proof suits to vacuum the hornets from within the hive.
"Murder hornets" are one of many invasive species trying to establish a foothold in Washington state. European green crabs and other prolific non-native creatures threaten natural ecosystems. Residents should report sightings of invasive species to the proper authority.
Gov. Jay Inslee began a Thursday visit to Grays Harbor County at the Coastal Community Action Program in Aberdeen. The organization helps low-income residents with housing, health, employment, nutrition, and emergency services. The program benefitted from a Commerce Solar Deployment Grant to build a solar installation that now powers their buildings.
Inslee then broke ground at the Fry Creek Pump Station in Aberdeen, which will reduce flood risk for local homes and businesses. The pump station is just one part of a larger Aberdeen-Hoquiam Flood Protection Project that will protect more than 5,100 properties and 1,354 businesses. The project was funded by $8.75 million from the 2021-2023 state capital budget.
Gov. Jay Inslee visited Washington State Department of Natural Resources hand crews completing a practical exam last Tuesday (June 28). The exam brought the crews one step closer to attaining their "Red Cards" certifying them as wildlands firefighters.
"Don't be the spark," said DNR's Wildfire Communications Manager Thomas Kyle-Milward. "Roughly 90 percent of wildfires are human-caused. Take care when you're out recreating in natural spaces."
Once the weather heats up and fuels dry out, so begins another wildfire season. DNR provides wildfire prevention reminders including checking for burn restrictions before starting campfires, not parking hot vehicles in dry grassy areas, and using nylon or plastic weed whackers instead of metal ones.
California, Oregon and Washington will continue to be a safe haven for all people seeking abortions and other reproductive health care services in these states.
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