Due to unprecedented challenges our tribe is facing due to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic, we regrettably made the decision to place 178 employees on temporary lay-off or “standby” starting on April 20, 2020 and ending on July 17, 2020. Additionally, Council decided that these employees’ regular contribution to their individual health insurance will be covered during this period. These lay-offs are caused by COVID-19 circumstances and they are not related to anyone’s individual performance. Under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), these employees are eligible for unemployment benefits and will receive an additional $600 a week. This was the primary reason that Council made this decision at this time. We wanted our employees who were laid off to have the maximum advantage of these expanded benefits under the CARES Act, which begin retroactively back to March 29th.
The complexities and tensions that exist in the world of this pandemic have been delivered daily to tribal council through emails, webinars, teleconferences, and video links. For the past month, Council has been in chambers participating in all these communication mediums to influence federal and state legislation and policy in the development of stimulus packages. As the Washington’s Governor’s proclamations were announced, especially with the closure of most businesses, Council also realized laying off employees was inevitable.
Our Colville Tribal Federal Corporation (CTFC) will not have any casino revenue for April, May, and June with no certain reopening date. CTFC has also laid off 400 employees. We decided to conserve tribal resources for future needs and to take advantage of stimulus funding. We directed administration to identify those employees whose salaries are funded with tribal dollars and those deemed non-essential for us to consider for a lay-off or standby of their positions. The term “non-essential” is not a reflection of the importance of an employee; it reflects organizational requirements needed during emergent times. All our employees are essential, and therefore Council postponed a lay-off until necessary. Our objective has been to keep everyone employed as long as possible. We also did not want to see the names of which employees would be laid off to remain objective. It turned out that 94% of these employees will receive more with unemployment than they would if they remained employed.
Council also decided to temporarily lay off employees with a “standby” status. Standby waives the job search requirements while workers are collecting unemployment benefits during the approved standby period. Tribal employees who are laid off should receive a letter which explains in more detail how to secure unemployment benefits. If you have questions, please contact the Tribes’ Human Resources Department.
Our nselxcín Elders have a teaching that no one is left alone because of illness, times of need or death. We must step in so the circle of support is always there. This can all be said with one word, txeťnwixᵚ. Please remember to pray for our people who have tested positive for their recovery and that they are not alone. Also, pray for our vulnerable, that they remain safe and healthy. This pandemic in time will pass and we will all be together once again.
We very much appreciate all our employees’ contributions to the Colville Tribes. We wish you all the best during this unprecedented time and are looking forward to your return to work following this standby period.
Colville Business Council