State House Leaders Propose $100 Million to Combat Coronavirus

Lawmakers in Olympia are poised to tap the state’s rainy day fund to pay for efforts to combat the growing threat of coronavirus. Dan Frizzell from the House Democratic Caucus has the story.

JINKINS: “Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you’re sick . . . and don’t panic!”

That’s Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins. The advice isn’t new, but considering she came to the Legislature with decades of public health experience under her belt, it carries some weight. Jinkins and top legislative healthcare leaders, including Democratic Representative Eileen Cody, chair of the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee, want to include a hundred million dollars in the soon-to-be-finalized state budget to help state and local governments keep Washington healthy.

JINKINS: “The state legislature is committed to working with the people of Washington and public health to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and I know that we can do it together.”

Jinkins, who works as an executive with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department when not in Olympia, said she’s saddened by the virus-related deaths but hopes to reassure Washingtonians that the state is mobilized and responding to the evolving situation. In Olympia, Dan Frizzell.

O’Ban drops bill to use $100 million from state’s emergency ‘rainy day fund’ for coronavirus response

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, is sponsoring a bill that would spend $100 million of the state’s budget stabilization account (‘rainy day fund’) to assist in the response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which has resulted in six deaths so far in Washington, and more than 9,000 deaths worldwide.

Gov. Inslee declared a state of emergency on Feb. 29 in all of Washington’s counties due to the threats against life and property from the coronavirus. Senate Bill 6696 would authorize the $100-million transfer to the disaster response account, solely for response and recovery efforts related to the declared emergency. The amount of the transfer was determined based on testimony by the Department of Health in Monday’s Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing.

The Office of Financial Management may use these funds for costs incurred by state agencies and local governments in the course of their coronavirus response. The money may not be used to supplant existing federal, state or local funds. Agencies must show that they have used the maximum amount available in federal funds before seeking funding from this appropriation.

OFM would also be required to provide monthly updates on the spending of these dedicated response funds.

“It is absolutely clear that we need to provide emergency funding to help state agencies and local governments respond to the declared state of emergency,” said O’Ban. “A public health crisis is exactly the kind of event that justifies dipping into the ‘rainy day fund.’ We want to act quickly to make sure response and recovery efforts aren’t delayed by a lack of funding.”