State House allocates $2.2 billion in COVID funding

Measure now goes to Senate

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The state House has passed a bill that would allocate $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The bill, which advanced from the House by a 61-36 vote late Monday, now moves to the Senate.

The Olympian reports the measure directs federal funding to an array of high-priority areas for relief.

Over $668 million goes to K-12 schools using a funding formula tied to how many low-income families are in a district. Another big chunk, $618 million, goes into a COVID-19 Public Health Response Account for efforts such as testing and contact tracing — $68 million of which is earmarked specifically for planning for, preparing and deploying the COVID-19 vaccine.

“These variants of the COVID virus are coming fast. We do not have another day to wait,” Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, said while urging a “yes” vote.

There’s $365 million for the Department of Commerce for several efforts related to housing and rental assistance; $240 million in Working Washington grants for small businesses, with a higher cap and more flexibility than in the original bill.

Among other efforts funded are $65 million for the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund and $50 million in financial support for child care providers.

The House also passed a separate bill Monday that’s part of the package. It would reclaim over $400 million in CARES Act money previously spent on increased vendor rates within the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to spend now.

The bill — passed unanimously — uses about $164 million from the state’s “rainy-day fund” to pay for those increased rates, and Medicaid matching funds make up for the difference.

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