State House approves $2.2B for COVID relief; heads to Senate

The bill allocates federal money to fight the pandemic, help schools open, aid renters and assist businesses.

OLYMPIA — A bill to distribute $2.2 billion in federal pandemic aid began its trek through the state Senate on Tuesday.

House Bill 1368 passed the House on a 61-36 vote Monday night. It received a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. A vote in the Senate is expected next week.

Under the bill, $618 million will be deposited in a new account for funding the public health response to COVID-19. That sum includes $438 million for testing and contract tracing and $68 million to alleviate costs tied to administering vaccines.

Another $668 million will go to public schools to help them reopen for some amount of in-person learning. But the money is not contingent on districts resuming instruction this school year.

There is $365 million for housing-related items, including aid for renters and landlords. And $240 million is earmarked for assisting businesses. Of the total, $150 million will be for businesses that are open and struggling to continue operations, and $90 million is solely to assist in the reopening of businesses that temporarily closed.

The bill also provides $65 million for the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund and $50 million for financial support for child care providers.

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