COVID-19
Updated On: Jan 27, 2021

Our Statewide Union's Broad Advocacy Efforts

Interpreters United's statewide union, WFSE, has been constantly engaging with the Governor's Office and other elected officials during the Coronavirus crisis. WFSE has delivered a number of recommendations to the Governor, many of which have already been adopted, including:

  • An agreement allowing interpreters to conduct remote interpreting services at the same pay rate as in-person (we won this for DCYF, HCA, plus L&I and are working on getting the same agreement from DSHS).
  • Protecting interpreters through the HCA COVID Policy of preferring remote services over in-person services.
  • VACCINE: Convincing Washington's Departement of Health to include healthcare interpreters in the first group (Phase 1A) of people eligible for COVID vaccination (see top of page 3). Meanwhile, the Washington State Supreme Court asked for court interpreters to be included in Phase 1B. WA DOH Guidance Summary updated on January 7, 2021.
  • Expanded unemployment insurance for interpreters
  • Expanded workers compensation for interpreters
  • Statewide moratorium on evictions
  • Prohibition of utility shut-offs
  • Prohibition of rent increases
  • Consideration of emergency basic income
  • Expansion of basic internet access as a public benefit for online education and increased opportunity for telework
  • Increased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line workers including interpreters

$300 One-Time Coronavirus Grant

Our union is proud to offer a vital resource for interpreters during these trying times. As a union member of Interpreters United, you are eligible to apply for a one-time grant of $300 in the form of a Fred Meyer gift card, that you can use to buy groceries and essential supplies for your family. This grant is being made available thanks to Interpreters United's powerful union family: WFSE, Washington's biggest state employees union, and a labor union foundation that WFSE established to help union members and our families. To apply for a one-time $300 gift card for union members, contact Pam Carl, WFSE's Member Mobilization Coordinator, via email at PamC[at]wfse.org. You must be a union member to apply for this grant, and you can sign up online here.

Virtual Unemployment Town Halls

Watch Interpreters United's highlights of a virtual Town Hall with unemployment experts from ESD online at YouTube here. If you are a union member of Interpreters United, you can have access to the full 2+ hours video of this Town Hall by emailing us at local1671[at]gmail.com.

Unemployment Application Guide for Interpreters

Interpreters United has created a 160+ page guide that walks interpreters through how to apply for unemployment benefits, step-by-step, as independent contractors eligible for the expanded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. If you are a union member of Interpreters United, you can access the full version of this 160+ page guide by emailing us at local1671[at]gmail.com.

EIDL $1,000 grant and loan

As sole proprietors, interpreters are eligible for both this $1,000 Federal Grant and low interest loans backed by the government. Our union created a step-by-step guide to assist interpreters in applying for this federal benefit. To download a preview version of our $1,000 Federal Grant Guide for Interpreters, click on this link.

Coronavirus Survey for Interpreters

Our union wants to hear how the Coronavirus Pandemic is affecting all interpreters. Governor Inslee recently announced that Washington's healthcare system will be re-opening. Interpreters United wants to hear how you feel about safely working appointments again, including what you think about working in-person versus remotely, whether you have adequate access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and any and all other concerns you have. You can fill out our online Coronavirus Survey for Interpreters here.

Stimulus Checks for Individuals and Families

Interpreters who filed taxes in 2019, and who made less than $75,000 (or $150,000 for married couples) will receive direct payments of $1,200 to adults ($2,400 for married couples), plus $500 per child for children. If you filed taxes electronically with your bank's information on your past tax return, it is likely that you have already received this payment. More information about stimulus checks, including your payment status, payment type, and an option to provide the IRS with your bank account information, is available online here.

Advocating for Vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Since the start of the Coronavirus crisis, Interpreters United has advocated for vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for interpreters who are working on the front lines of the pandemic. Interpreters signed on to a successful petition from our national union, AFSCME, asking the White House to activate the Defense Production Act to accelerate the manufacturing of N95 masks, respirators, ventilators, gloves, and other PPE. We have also recently launched a new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Inventory Form, which interpreters can fill out to give our union a picture of what your current and future access to vital PPE looks like.

Lost Income Insurance Protection

Thanks to the strength of Interpreters United's statewide union WFSE, interpreters are eligible for a very affordable insurance program that provides us with lost income benefits in case we get sick, such as from Coronavirus / COVID-19. This Lost Income Insurance Protection plan is also known as disability insurance. Our union's plan is simple: if you register for insurance before you get sick, have an accident, or develop a disability, the insurance benefits will kick-in (after the specified number of days that you choose) by providing you with income while you cannot work. Interpreters United's plan provides union members who enroll with a minimum of $500 per month in lost income payments, and up to 60% of your income, which can last while you are sick or disabled from anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. You can learn more online here.

Suspending Student Loan Payments

If you as an interpreter (or one of your family members) has a student loan through the Department of Education, you can request that payments on these loans be suspended without penalties. This process is called "administrative forbearance." You can find out more information online here.

Protecting Interpreters As Essential Workers

If you are leaving your home to complete an in-person interpreting appointment at a facility that is still open, you are an essential worker. You do not need a letter of verification to go to work at your appointment, and Interpreters United will have your back if you run into any problems. Please immediately contact our union if you have any issues with being considered an essential worker, or if you run into problems traveling to/from appointments.

Pattern Bargaining Wins and Pushing for More Jobs

Interpreters United has used a powerful negotiating strategy called "Pattern Bargaining" to win important protections for interpreters during the Coronavirus Pandemic. First, Interpreters United got the Health Care Authority (HCA) to agree to pay interpreters in-person rates and hourly minimums for remote appointments. We then extended this agreement to Labor & Industries (L&I) and Department of Youth, Children, and Families (DCYF) interpreting jobs. By extending these standards to different state agencies – from HCA to L&I and then DCYF – Interpreters United has negotiated a pattern that has been applied to interpreting jobs throughout the entire language industry. We are still working on DSHS to agree to these same high standards.

Allowing interpreters to work jobs remotely, while being paid in-person rates and hourly minimums, provides our union members with more sustainability during these tough times when there are less jobs all around, and helps to keep interpreters safer from having less exposure to the virus.

We are now pushing for all publicly-funded remote interpreting appointments to remain within Washington State (as opposed to language companies outsourcing this work and exploiting interpreters based in other countries). Interpreters United has launched
an online petition calling on Governor Inslee to ensure that all of the State’s publicly-funded interpreting appointments – especially DES remote jobs – are going to interpreters who are credentialed and/or who work in Washington. We will continue doing everything we can to get interpreters as much work as possible during these tough times, despite the overall economic downturn caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

WA State Labor Council Resources for Union Members

Industry-Specific Information — The AFL-CIO is collecting and sharing industry-specific COVID-19 guidance and resources from its affiliated international unions. It also has the most up-to-date materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the World Health Organization, research experts and others.

Help with your bills — If you have seen a reduction in pay due to COVID-19 and are struggling to pay for, WA State Department of Financial Institutions has some useful resources.

Credit cards or loans: contact your lender right away. Explain your situation and ask about hardship programs that may be available. Regulatory agencies have encouraged financial institutions to work with customers impacted by the coronavirus. 

Electricity and utilities: visit your provider’s website. Many offer Emergency Assistance Programs to help low-income customers. See the COVID-19 response pages at Puget Sound EnergyAvistaCascade NaturalPacific PowerNorthwest NaturalWashington WaterCity of SeattleTacoma Public Utilities, or your local provider, for more assistance. In addition, Comcast is allowing free Internet access.

Rent: be aware that Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a temporary moratorium on all evictions statewide. For assistance, get Housing Counseling from HUD. A local counselor can help answer your questions.

Assistance for Union Families in Need — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is urging all organizations and individuals interested in helping union families suffering economic hardship amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state to make contributions to the Foundation for Working Families, a nonprofit formed by the WSLC and its affiliated unions to assist union families in times of hardship or disaster. Families can apply for FFWF assistance by downloading its Hardship Assistance Form. Assistance is restricted to union members and their families. 

Assistance for Immigrant Workers — Immigrant workers face unique challenges amid the coronavirus outbreak, including some fearful of seeking medical attention or help because of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant “public charge” rules. The City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, along with El Comite and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, have answers to frequently asked questions posted here.

COVID-19 Graphic Guide for Interpreting Services

COVID-19 HIPAA Guidance from US HHS OCR

On March 25, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance on telehealth remote communications following its Notification of Enforcement Discretion during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.


The Notification, issued earlier this week, announced, effective immediately, that OCR is exercising its enforcement discretion to not impose penalties for HIPAA violations against healthcare providers in connection with their good faith provision of telehealth using communication technologies during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. More information can be found here.


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More Information:
$1,000 Federal Grant Guide
COVID-19 Graphic Guide Interpreting Services
L&I Interpreter Services COVID-19 Policy
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