County allots $13.2 million to early 2021 pandemic response

The Snohomish County Council voted Wednesday to spend CARES Act funds on key programs next year.

EVERETT — Snohomish County leaders on Wednesday put $13.2 million in pandemic relief funds toward continuing vital public health, human service and emergency response programs through the first three months of next year.

The County Council unanimously agreed on the spending plan, which will use what’s left of $143.4 million the county received from the federal CARES Act last spring.

County leaders initially faced an end-of-year deadline for spending all of the money and were considering preserving some of next year’s general fund budget to ensure that pandemic response efforts could continue in 2021.

Then, this week, Congress approved a $900 billion relief package that would also push the deadline for spending the original CARES Act dollars. As of Wednesday morning, the bill had gone to President Donald Trump for signature.

Of the council’s $13.2 million allocation:

■ $1 million will pay for economic stabilization efforts.

■ $3 million will be provided to the Snohomish Health District for purposes such as case investigations, contact tracing and disease control and prevention.

■ $5 million will go to other emergency management efforts related to public health and medical response. That includes the county’s efforts to procure personal protective gear for frontline workers, provide food to vulnerable families and operate a state-mandated isolation and quarantine facility. A few million dollars have been earmarked for vaccination-related costs, should the county be called on to establish sites where people can get the shot.

■ $4 million will go to human and social services and housing. The money will provide rental assistance, emergency shelter for people who are homeless and support for behavioral health programs.

■ $200,000 will pay for an electronic body scanner that will allow Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies to search people at a distance — without having to physically pat them down — when they are booked into jail. The sheriff’s existing scanner, used to prevent people from bringing drugs or weapons into the correctional facility, is no longer working, county officials have said.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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