By Patric Haerle
WNPA News Service
Additional relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is on its way.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law on Feb. 19, that appropriates $2.2 billion federal dollars to be used for K-12 schools, public health, assistance to individuals and families, housing and business assistance.
“The process of getting to a post-pandemic era has just begun,” Inslee said “And we intend to come out of this pandemic stronger, in part because of this legislation.”
The package distributes $365 million in emergency eviction, rental and utility assistance and $240 million for small businesses assistance grants.
“We have saved thousands of lives in Washington State, and I’m hoping this now helps thousands of businesses,” Inslee said at the signing of the bill.
The bill includes $714 million for K-12 schools — requiring schools to outline a reopening and student recovery plan in the process — and $618 million for public health, including $438 million for testing and contact tracing and $68 million for vaccines.
The safety of reopening schools was emphasized by Inslee throughout the bill signing.
“Parents are really wondering, ‘Is it safe to go back to school?’ And the answer is, unequivocally yes.” Inslee stated. “If a school embraces these protocols that have been so successful. “
Inslee cited the more than 200,000 students and 135 school districts across the state that have begun on-site instruction with minimal transmission, saying research shows children may be safer in school than out.
Also in the package is $65 million for immigration services, $50 million for childcare, and $26 million for food banks and similar programs.
The chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Senator Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, praised the Legislatures’ timeline and cross-chamber, bipartisan work.
“This was an effort, among Democrats and Republicans, the House and the Senate, the Legislature and the Executive Branch, and is an example of all of us pulling together to get the job done for our communities,” Rolfes said.
The Office of Financial Management said renters or businesses that need help will likely see the money in the next few weeks, depending on federal guidance.