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County Commissioners approve $1 million to provide free PPE for small businesses

UPDATED: Tue., June 9, 2020

Kristi Scates, a nurse from Providence Holy Family Hospital, wears personal protective equipment (PPE) in April at a COVID-19 screening station in April. Small businesses in Spokane County will have access to free PPE purchased with federal assistance starting later this month.  (COLIN MULVANY)
Kristi Scates, a nurse from Providence Holy Family Hospital, wears personal protective equipment (PPE) in April at a COVID-19 screening station in April. Small businesses in Spokane County will have access to free PPE purchased with federal assistance starting later this month. (COLIN MULVANY)

Spokane County businesses and nonprofits will soon have access to free gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and plexiglass sneeze screens after county commissioners agreed to use $1 million in federal COVID-19 aid to fund a program.

The program, which will be administered by a regional work group, the county and Greater Spokane Incorporated, will allow businesses or nonprofits with fewer than 49 employees to reserve PPE and sanitizer ahead of time and pick them up. The decision comes just a day after a Governor Jay Inslee requirement for all workers to wear masks .

Cindy Wendle, a member of the work group who is managing the purchase of the supply, said the program was designed to help small businesses that may not have the ability to purchase large quantities of PPE themselves.

“Some of our smallest businesses are going to need support,” Wendle said.

“Trying to purchase, and source PPE was going to be a significant barrier.”

She said the county and work group is still developing details on pick up locations and the amount of PPE each business will be allowed to reserve in advance. But she anticipates more than 16,000 businesses will be eligible for free equipment. She said more details will be released next week.

Tony Hall, Spokane County purchasing manager, said he anticipates the funding the county approved will be enough to provide PPE for about 100,000 employees.

The county and work group is planning on purchasing 1,000 plexiglass screens, 15,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, 1.5 million disposable masks and 1.5 million pairs of gloves.

Hall said he was hoping the supplies the county ordered will arrive within three weeks.

Spokane County Commissioners also plan to meet on Monday to discuss purchasing cloth masks as well.

Spokane Commissioners Al French, Mary Kuney and Josh Kerns, who unanimously voted to purchase sanitizer and PPE during their afternoon meeting, also discussed potentially purchasing more if some supplies run low in the future.

The funding county commissioners used to purchase the PPE is Spokane County’s portion of the CARES Act, which congress approved in March for COVID-19 aid and recovery.

Commissioners also have used the money on the Spokane Regional Health District to pay for increased coronavirus expenses and contact tracing.

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