Council Authorizes Immediate Actions to Protect Residents & Businesses
Published on March 31, 2020
KIRKLAND, Wash. – The Kirkland City Council took emergency actions to support residents and businesses in response to COVID-19 during their virtual special meeting on Tuesday, March 31 at 5:30 p.m.
Actions taken by the City Council included: instituting a moratorium on small business and nonprofit organization evictions; allowing law enforcement officers to issue misdemeanor citations to those violating the lawful order of a public officer during an emergency; authorizing the City administration to defer utility payments and waive related late fees during the emergency proclamation, and providing funding flexibility and additional grants so that human services agencies could meet the community’s needs during the pandemic.
Moratorium on small business and nonprofit evictions
The City Council passed Resolution 5414, ratifying the City Manager’s emergency directive dated March 31, 2020 to create a moratorium on small business and nonprofit organization evictions in Kirkland due to nonpayment of rent or the expiration of leases during the COVID-19 proclamation of emergency or 60 days after today’s directive, which ever happens sooner. The moratorium can be extended beyond 60 days with ratification of the City Council. Through a series of actions taken by Governor Jay Inslee to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the state, most notably including the order to close all non-essential businesses and projects, numerous businesses and residents of the state and Kirkland have suffered and will continue to suffer significant financial damages, including loss of business income, layoffs and reduced hours for a significant percentage of the workforce. This moratorium on evictions is intended to provide small businesses and nonprofit organizations support during this unprecedented public health emergency.
“Passing this resolution is an important step toward helping our small businesses and nonprofits survive this pandemic,” said Mayor Penny Sweet. “At this time, we must not only be thinking about how we stay home and stay healthy, we must be looking to the future and laying the groundwork so that we can once again be a thriving community.”
Making it a misdemeanor to violate the lawful order of a public officer during an emergency
The City Council also approved Ordinance 4721, making it a misdemeanor crime to knowingly violate the lawful order of a public officer during an emergency or disaster. This Ordinance added a new section 3.20.130 to Chapter 3.20 of the Kirkland Municipal Code (“KMC”) related to emergency preparedness. The Ordinance goes into effect immediately and will expire on April 30.
Without the Ordinance, the City did not have the clear ability for its police officers to cite an individual for knowingly violating the lawful order of a public officer during a declared or proclaimed emergency or disaster. During the COVID-19 pandemic, public officers at every level of government have issued or may issue orders necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare, including those related to shelter-in place, quarantine and isolation, public health testing, and economic and social practices. This past weekend, for example, it was suggested by the public health officer for Public Health – Seattle and King County that it may become necessary to require individuals violating quarantine and isolation protocols to be placed into temporary detention. It is possible that other directives may similarly need to be enforced during the pandemic, and this might be required to occur at the local level.
“Though the Kirkland Police Department will now have the authority to cite an individual for knowingly violating the lawful order of a public officer during an emergency, the expectation is that it would be rarely if ever used,” said Police Chief Cherie Harris. “We believe, similar to Governor Inslee, that our community members will continue to step-up and stay home and stay healthy for the benefit of all of our community members, and especially those most vulnerable.”
Misdemeanor crimes in Washington are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
Allowing for temporary deferral and suspension of utility charges, taxes and waiver of related late fees
The City Council approved Ordinance 4722 which allows the City, during the current emergency proclamation, to temporarily defer and suspend the payment of all utility charges and taxes otherwise provided for in Titles Five and Seven of the Kirkland Municipal Code (“KMC”), and also to waive any late fees, penalties or interest payments that might otherwise have accrued during such deferral and suspension. Deferrals will be granted upon request.
Human services funding support
Lastly, the City Council passed Resolution 5415 approving a Human Services Stabilization Initiative in the amount of $265,000 and authorizing the City Manager to: (1) provide up to the remaining 2020 contracted human services grant amount for each contracted service provider upon request and (2) waive 2020 Kirkland service goal requirements as a condition of receiving 2020 human services grant funds.
Among those most hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic emergency in Kirkland are those individuals needing food and shelter, behavioral health and domestic violence services, and other critical human services. The Resolution will help to address those needs by approving $265,000 in human services grants to support agencies serving the Kirkland community. The Resolution also authorizes the City Manager to provide up to the remaining 2020 contracted human services grant amount for each contracted service upon request from each such agency to help with budget challenges and increased caseload faced by the agencies.
“Though we’ve all been impacted by COVID-19, we must pay special attention to those who were already in challenging circumstances prior to the pandemic,” said Councilmember Amy Falcone, who previously served on the City of Kirkland Human Services Commission. “This Resolution helps us to provide important resources to the agencies we already partner with to provide services to those that are most in-need in our community.”
The City will continue to update its website with information on the COVID-19 outbreak.