OLYMPIA –Washington lawmakers may have to come back for a special legislative session in the coming months to help with the coronavirus response and economic recovery because the state has already distributed 60% of the money — $120 million out of $200 million — that was budgeted last month, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.
Legislators authorized the use of that money from the state’s rainy day funds on March 12, the final day of this year’s legislative session.
Between the cost of coronavirus response and additional economic aid likely needed to kick-start the economy in the coming months, Inslee said he will probably have to call a special legislative session before the next scheduled session in January. .
“But we haven’t made any decision on that,” the governor said Tuesday in a news conference on the coronavirus response.
Washington now has 8,682 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 394 fatalities, state Health Officer Kathy Lofy said Tuesday afternoon. Washington at one time led the nation in the number of cases and deaths. But as of late, other states including New York, Michigan and Louisiana have surpassed Washington in the number of cases and deaths.
Researchers at the University of Washington this week presented a more optimistic picture for Washington state, lowering previous death projections and suggesting hospitalizations may have peaked.
Still, Washington officials are continuing work toward stemming the pandemic.
Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman said Tuesday the state has successfully ordered 84 million items of needed medical gear.
Those items include masks, biohazard waste bags, ventilators, stethoscopes and hand sanitizer, Wiesman said in a separate news briefing Tuesday afternoon.
The health secretary added, however, “that demand currently exceeds available supply.”
Officials have “31.6 million N95 masks on order, and 33 million surgical masks, on order as well,” Wiesman said.
But, “Some supplies, like gowns and gloves, are harder to come by,” he added.
State data showed that as of Monday, Washington had received a total of:
- 3.08 million gloves
- 69,063 goggles
- 947,004 N95 respirator masks
- 1.44 million surgical masks
- 118 thermometers
- 234,122 gowns
- 185,020 face shields
Those are a combination of items donated to or purchased by the state, as well as gear received from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, according to the Department of Enterprise Services.
Wiesman said that since March 16, the state has distributed 2.2 million items to health care providers, including roughly 394,000 N95 masks, 665,000 surgical masks and 68,000 face shields.
Meanwhile, Inslee announced help for small businesses that have been hurt by the outbreak. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees can apply for grants of up to $10,000, Inslee said.
“And businesses can use this money to pay rent, utility bills, supplies, inventory and other operating expenses,” Inslee said of the program. People who want to apply, he added, can go to https://coronavirus.wa.gov
The city of Seattle announced last month it is providing up to $10,000 to small businesses with five or fewer employees and are owned by someone at or below 80% of the area’s median income.