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King County Council approves new round of COVID-19 emergency funding

Tuesday afternoon, the King County Council approved $86 million in emergency funding for COVID-19 response – the third round of emergency funding the Council has approved since the pandemic began.

Adopted unanimously, the $86.2 million supplemental omnibus budget provides funding for a range of programs, most notably a $12 million increase for food security, rental assistance, and homeless services.

The budget also includes seven-figure investments in digital equity in K-12 school and behavioral health services.

The impact of the pandemic on behavioral health has worried state health officials. Earlier this month, the Department of Health said 30-60% of Washingtonians may experience symptoms of depression in coming months related to COVID-19.

The proposal also includes a provision to supply Metro buses with face masks. Gov. Inslee yesterday announced a statewide mandatory face covering order that will take effect Friday.

The Council also said these measures to shore up social programs would be a step toward addressing structural racism.

Because of COVID-19, families, communities, workers and businesses across King County are hurting health wise, emotionally and financially,” said King County Council Budget Chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “This spending package is aimed at providing relief to their urgent needs and from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. It also will help position our County to bounce back once the crisis is behind us. And, importantly, the funding is targeted to support historically disadvantaged communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic – an important step to take if we are to dismantle and disrupt racism in our communities once and for all.”

The first round of COVID-19 emergency funding approved by the Council was $27.4 million in March followed by $62.9 million in mid-May. A King County spokesperson said that as with prior measures, the County expects much of the emergency spending to be reimbursed by state and federal funds.

Kohl-Welles also added that this round of funding will not be the last:

Our work is not yet finished. We will take up another COVID-focused budget in August to help with urgent needs being faced by our residents, workers and businesses during this tumultuous times.”

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