Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed House Bill 1368, which appropriates $2.2 billion in federal funding that has been allocated to states in response to the ongoing COVID emergency. The legislation takes effect immediately.
"Our focus this year is relief, recovery and resilience, and this legislation will help us make tremendous progress in all of those areas. Washingtonians have been exemplary in helping limit the spread of COVID-19, but it has not come without its economic and emotional costs," Inslee said. "The process of getting to a post-pandemic era has already begun, and we will come out of this stronger because of legislation like what I am signing today."
In December, Inslee asked the Legislature to act early on COVID relief legislation, and the Legislature responded with HB 1368, which addresses a host of needs facing Washingtonians right now.
- The bill provides:
- $714 million in assistance for K-12 schools
- $618 million for public health's response to COVID, including testing, investigation and contact tracing; and funding for vaccination efforts
- $365 million for emergency eviction, rental and utility assistance
- $240 million for business assistance grants
- $50 million for child care
- $26 million for food banks and other food programs
- $91 million for income assistance, including $65 million for relief for the state's immigrant population
The House legislation was sponsored by Rep. Timm Ormsby. Sen. Christine Rolfes sponsored companion legislation in the Senate.
"Local communities have done their part to keep us all safe during this pandemic. This bill is just one step the Legislature will take this year to support those who are struggling most in our state," said Ormsby, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "As we approach the budgeting process, we are keeping our focus on investments that equitably address the needs in struggling communities and help families and small businesses get through this current stage of the pandemic."
Inslee Expanded COVID
Testing for School Districts
The governor announced the Department of Health, in partnership with the nonprofit Health Commons Project, would be expanding the state's COVID testing programs for schools as more districts begin to return to the classroom. Last Tuesday's (Feb. 16) announcement will add about 50 school districts to the 13 that were previously implementing testing strategies with help from the state.
Districts decide how to implement testing strategies and who is eligible for the voluntary tests. The state has also published a "Learn to Return" playbook to help school districts plan for safe reopening and monitoring of COVID activity.
Last Thursday, Inslee continued to encourage getting more students back in the classroom by visiting Firgrove Elementary School in the Puyallup School District.
Inslee toured the school with educators, administrators and local elected officials to see for himself how the state's COVID-19 safety requirements for returning to the classroom are being implemented. He previously toured Elk Ridge Elementary in Buckley, and had a virtual meeting with students, educators and administrators at Wenatchee High School.
"I continue to be impressed by the growing number of districts progressing in a safe return to in-person learning. Educators and students are committed to making this work," Inslee said.