Amid federal uncertainty, Idaho allocates last of CARES Act funds

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

On Wednesday afternoon, the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee budgeted the last of the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding Idaho received in the spring. 

Alex Adams, CFAC chairman and administrator of the Division of Financial Management, said the proposals are meant to bridge Idaho’s continued needs with what isn’t covered in the new funding package passed by Congress. 

Those allocations include:

  • $29 million for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for vaccinations, increased daily rates for patients in long term care facilities, caring for COVID-positive patients in skilled nursing facilities, testing and tracing, and communications; 
  • $7.6 million for the Idaho Division of Veteran Services for additional nurses, testing, personal protective equipment, food service and housekeeping;
  • $6.7 million for the Idaho Department of Labor for additional staffing and PPE;
  • $350,000 for the Idaho State Police for extra staffing during the 2021 legislative session;
  • $1.8 million for Information Technology Services (amended from a higher request during the meeting);
  • Roughly $14 million for the Governor’s Emergency Fund, to “provide the State with the flexibility needed to address emerging needs in the weeks ahead.”

You can see the original proposals here. 

Adams acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the federal spending deal that, as of the end of the CFAC meeting on Wednesday, hadn’t yet been signed by President Donald Trump. Adams encouraged the committee to assume the president would go ahead and sign the bill, which also extends the deadline by which the original CARES Act Funds must be spent from Dec. 31, 2020 to the end of 2021. 

“I think it’s prudent for us to continue to move forward as if that bill will pass,” Adams said. “If we have to meet again next week to take an alternate course of action, we certainly can.”

After the meeting, Adams explained the estimated funds Idaho would receive under the new spending deal awaiting the president’s signature. Those funds include:

  • $195 to $200 million for public schools;
  • $200 million in rental assistance;
  • $58 million in child care block grants;
  • $190 million for testing, tracing, and COVID-19 mitigation;
  • An additional $300 in unemployment benefits per week for an additional 11 weeks, to the tune of an estimated $1 billion.

The final totals may vary. 

During the meeting, Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, expressed her frustration at the need for additional security for the upcoming legislative session. During the 2020 special session in August, protesters crowded the statehouse in defiance of social distancing requests, resulting in a broken glass door, stalled committee meetings, and arrests. 

Lt. Col. Sheldon Kelley told the committee that ISP’s request, which will fund eight troopers for legislative security detail for 12 weeks, came as the result of a meeting with House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder last week. Kelley said they used the special session and “the additional interest in the legislative process” as a gauge for the extra security lawmakers might require. 

“In order to make everyone feel safe, and to ensure that the legislative process can proceed safely, we felt like we needed more dedicated troops at the Capitol during that process,” Kelley said. 

The proposals passed unanimously.

Over the last nine months, CFAC has met 25 times. Before the vote, Gov. Brad Little thanked the committee for their work. 

“I look at this, and I talk to my fellow governors about it — A lot of our response to the pandemic is going to be viewed through the rearview mirror about what states did and did not do,” Little said. “What your work guarantees is that Idaho’s response was judicious and appropriate. You did the right thing taking into account the changing circumstances out there.”

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