Millions in COVID Relief for County Businesses, Residences

The biggest allotment was $8 million for COVID-19 mobile testing, which was also part of the $10.3 million allocated to respond to the public health crisis. Emergency Management is getting $715,000 for storage space.

Closeup of a health worker administering a vaccine in a patient's arm.
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/doctor-gloves-holding-syringe-making-injection-1766547584" target="_blank">Shutterstock/BaLL LunLa</a>
(TNS) - Pierce County Council unanimously approved millions in spending Tuesday to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions.

Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and it was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11 . It gives states and counties $65.1 billion in flexible aid to help with the impacts of COVID-19 on government, businesses and individuals.

Washington was allocated an estimated $1.47 billion, according to the National Association of Counties . Of that, Pierce County was granted $175 million to use over the next four years.

The first round of funding for Pierce County , $88 million, will arrive in early May, council spokesperson Brynn Grimley said.

Most of the initial funding went to economic relief and helping social service programs continue work.

"The council's strategic investments now and through future appropriations will support our mid- to long-term needs and rebuild Pierce County stronger than it was before the crisis," Chairman Derek Young said in a statement.

The biggest allotment was $8 million for COVID-19 mobile testing, which was also part of the $10.3 million allocated to respond to the public health crisis. The Department of Emergency Management is getting $715,000 for warehouse storage space and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will see $615,000 for its isolation and quarantine center.

About $11.6 million has been allocated to "economic stabilization" programs, like a summer jobs program, workforce development and the Washington Service Corps . Grimley said 800 businesses applied to the $4 million rollback relief program, so the council has added an additional $4 million from the ARPA funds to address the need.

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department , Pierce County's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in March, higher than King County's 5.4 percent and Snohomish's 6.3 percent.

"The focus is to get more people back to work," Grimley said.

More than $8.5 million will be set aside for social service programs. There is $2 million for homeless programs, another $2 million for food banks, and $1.5 million for youth summer programs.

About $7 million is slated for "COVID-19 operational impacts," which includes meeting public health and safety guidelines as the public returns to public spaces. Pierce County Superior Court has been renting the Tacoma Armory as a place to hold jurors until they are walked to the courtroom for jury selection, Grimley said.

The new space will require additional bailiffs and administrative costs. The $7 million also will purchase electronic home monitoring devices for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department to keep track of criminal defendants.

A backlog in court cases has been one of the impacts to the pandemic. The council set aside $3 million to add temporary staff in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office .

With $3 million, "stepped up" cleaning procedures will occur at all Pierce County buildings, Grimley said.

"Facility costs include not only making spaces safe for the public and employees to be there, but also cleaning the building's HVAC systems, air ducts, filters and adding touchless fixtures and doors where possible to reduce high touch areas," she said.

About $37 million remains to be allocated from the county's first round of ARPA funding.

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