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Spokane County awards health district $2 million more in federal COVID-19 funding

UPDATED: Tue., July 21, 2020

Spokane County Commissioners unanimously voted Monday to increase their pandemic funding for the Spokane Regional Health District by $2 million to address increased contact tracing efforts and a continued spike in positive COVID-19 cases.

The award increased the amount commissioners have granted to the health district to respond to the pandemic from $6 million to $8 million.

According to budget documents, Spokane Regional Health District staff anticipate responding to the coronavirus and the surge in cases could cost about $13.7 million.

Those expected costs include community screening sites, an isolation center, data and assessment, contact tracing and personal protective equipment.

The funding approved Monday will cover a health district contract with the Public Health Institute, a private company that will hire several teams of contact tracers.

Spokane Regional Health District Public Information Officer Kelli Hawkins said the arrangement will cover contact tracing needs resulting from the recent surge in cases and that commissioners approved slightly more than the Health District needed in case of unexpected expenses.

Spokane County added 146 new confirmed cases over the weekend and 91 on Monday.

The funding for increased contact tracing is from Spokane County’s allotment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, which Congress passed in March. Spokane County was awarded $90 million in federal funding, and has spent about a third of it on small business grants, PPE, marketing and food security. The funding can only be used on COVID-19-related issues.

All three Spokane County Commissioners said they were committed to covering whatever costs the Health District incurs while responding to the pandemic.

“I’m happy to help support them, and that’s our No. 1 priority,” County Commissioner Mary Kuney said.

“We’ve got to get the public health situation under control.”

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