As Seattle became the decade’s fastest-growing big city in America, residents have seen more tree canopy disappear to make room for new apartments and houses to accommodate the growing population. Now, activists and residents are pushing for the Seattle City Council to create a new tree ordinance that will protect more trees. But even as the movement gains momentum and there’s increasing evidence that trees help combat climate change and water pollution, the Seattle City Council is weighing these efforts against an ever-increasing need for housing.
Undocumented workers, especially in the transportation, construction and service industries, have been hit hard by the coronavirus but have been left out of stimulus efforts. This is despite paying more than $300 million in state and local taxes in Washington State, and many of their employers contributing to the unemployment relief fund. While some cities and states have launched their own relief efforts, there has been pushback on social media and Fox News commentators have demanded to know why undocumented workers should receive taxpayer help.
InvestigateWest is seeking out survivors of wildfires who are willing to take a 15-minute survey on how they are faring now. The survey asks: Are you still trying to rebuild your life after a natural disaster? How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your efforts?
Young adults in the foster care system, who are disproportionately people of color, were already at risk for a litany of serious problems even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, as many struggle to pay for rent and groceries, advocates are calling for Washington state to stop kicking young people out of Extended Foster Care when they turn 21. In response, the state says it is working on a new housing stability program. In the meantime, some young adults are seeking help from charitable groups.
With nearly triple the usual number of wildfires this year, Washington and Oregon are set to have the worst summer fire forecasts in the nation. And it’s not the only one. As a result of COVID-19, volunteer firefighting numbers are down and those who did sign up face increased vulnerability to the virus. The pandemic has curtailed preventative measures, leading agencies across the country to plan for fast, low-headcount efforts to fight fires.
All across the country, there’s been an upsurge in calls and texts to helplines as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As people adapt to the new normal, they are reaching out to helplines with questions and concerns about employment, food banks, mental health and domestic violence. While efforts are being made to address these concerns and deal with the mental health toll that the pandemic is causing, some experts worry that not enough is being done.
The coronavirus pandemic has translated into severe unhappiness for parents of children taken into Washington State’s foster-care system who no longer are able in most cases to have in-person contact with their children. Court rulings from around the state are in conflict, and parents who lost their kids to the foster care system — most because they were simply too poor to adequately care for them — are bringing legal challenges to Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency stay-at-home proclamation’s effect on their ability to have regular in-person visits.
Coronavirus could seriously hamper Washington’s ability to fight wildfires as agencies focus on organizing a response to the global pandemic. Despite concerns that the 2020 wildfire season could be worse than 2019’s, agencies that usually plan for fires and recruit firefighters in early spring are instead helping organize Washington’s response to COVID-19. Social-distancing concerns could mean a lower turnout of firefighters.