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CHS Pics | ‘WASH HANDS BE KIND’ — Capitol Hill’s COVID-19 plywood art gallery

On Capitol Hill, the neighborhood’s restaurants, bars, and cafes are essential. Even as much of the city goes into lockdown, many of the neighborhood’s businesses are shifting to a new, hopefully temporary world of delivery and curbside pickup. But many blocks of the neighborhood have gone quiet with plywood panels to protect glass windows from taggers, etchers, and mishaps for who knows how long.

The closed dining areas and big panels of wood have become a new message board for the neighborhood. Taggers are busy filling some of those panels. Others have become the canvas for street artists and designers.

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CHS found Josephine Rice working on one of Linda Derschang’s joints after the restaurant and bar owner put out a call for artists. Here mission: “Some kind of uplifting message. Don’t want to do too much negativity,” Rice said.

Sign artist Japhy Witte of Sign Savant was due to come by to handle the lettering for a message that would be a work in progress — “We haven’t even decided what it’s going to be!” Rice said with about as much excitement as can be mustered in a city full of the self-quarantined.

As for the subject? Rice said that was easy. “Flowers,” she said. “I can’t draw anything else.”

The art and messages of unity are nice but thousands of employees from the shuttered local businesses are now without work. Under emergency rules due to the outbreak, Washington workers will be able to receive unemployment benefits if an employer temporarily cuts back or shuts down because of employee illness or quarantine and employers will get relief of benefit charges. Standby — meaning workers do not need to meet job search requirements while they are unemployed — will be available for part-time workers as well as full-time workers — but they must meet a minimum of 680 hours in the past year. The state has also temporarily reopened the state’s health insurance exchange to allow new sign-ups. Seattle has also moved to ban residential evictions during the outbreak response.

Fundraisers like the Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund have been set up as grassroots efforts to more directly and more quickly help individual workers. You’ll find online “tip drives” for staff at many of your favorite bars and restaurants — if you want to help, it’s best to check the social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram from your neighborhood favorites.

Meanwhile, the “All in Seattle” campaign has raised $27 million for major nonprofits like Northwest Harvest through giving organized by “a group of community-minded business leaders,” the Seattle Times reports. A COVID-19 Response Fund has also been started with help from Amazon and Microsoft to “help people disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus outbreak’s disruption of the economy” including “people who lack access to health insurance or sick leave, residents with limited English proficiency, communities of color, and health care and gig economy workers.”

CHS reported on what neighborhood small businesses were doing to prepare and efforts including the federal COVID-19 emergency program that will make some $7 billion in low interest loans available to businesses hit by the virus’s impact. The city is also making grants available to small businesses with the expanded Small Business Stabilization Fund as well as deferring payments on businesses taxes and utilities and enacting a moratorium on commercial evictions.

Neighborhood restaurants and shops have also called on patrons to purchase gift cards and gift certificates to help local businesses weather the restrictions.

Will it be enough? CHS will continue to bring you stories and images of the COVID-19 response’s impact on the neighborhood until the plywood comes down.

UPDATE: Here are more scenes from the works now on display around the Hill. Thanks to Cory Gerety for the photos:


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