A new bill would use the rainy day fund to provide COVID–19 relief for individuals, businesses, and schools and direct how to allocate federal relief funds

By: Emily Makings
2:10 pm
January 20, 2021

Today Rep. Stokesbary introduced HB 1334. The bill would appropriate $4.175 billion in state and federal funds for COVID-19 relief for the 2019–21 biennium. Of that, $1.735 billion would come from the budget stabilization account (BSA, or the rainy day fund) and $2.440 billion would come from federal funds.

The federal funds allocated are from the enhanced federal match for Medicaid (FMAP, enacted Mar. 18, 2020), the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF, enacted Mar. 27, 2020), and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA, enacted Dec. 27, 2020).

The state of Washington received $2.167 billion from the CRF earlier this year. Because the Legislature was not in session, the governor made allocations from the CRF throughout the year. As I’ve written, it appears the state has allocated more than it received. But, as the director of the Office of Financial Management noted in a House Appropriations Committee work session last week, since the CRRSA extended the time states have to spend CRF money, the state will have through December of this year (instead of last December) to be sure the accounting is square. (HB 1334 notes, “the deadline extension provides an opportunity to reevaluate previous state expenditures of coronavirus relief funds.”)

The specific appropriations in HB 1334 are listed in the table below. A few notes:

  • Under the CRRSA, the state will receive $824.9 million from the elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund. HB 1334 would allocate those funds to school districts based on their reopening status and test positivity rates. One-half of a district’s allocation would be provided when the district sends its reopening plan for all grades to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The other half would be provided when the district reopens for all grades. If county test positivity rates are less than 5%, all grades must be reopened. If county test positivity rates are 5–10%, K–8 must be reopened. If county test positivity rates are more than 10%, K–5 must be reopened.
  • The governor had previously allocated about $400 million from the CRF for temporary COVID-19 rate enhancements for long-term care providers. HB 1334 would fund those rate enhancements with FMAP and BSA funds instead. The newly freed-up CRF money would then be used for rental and utility assistance and business assistance grants.

Based on the November revenue forecast, the BSA is expected to have $1.943 billion at the end of 2019–21. If HB 1334 is enacted, the BSA balance would be about $208 million. (The balance could be higher: The governor used CRF funds in lieu of previously-appropriated BSA funds, so the BSA funds may end up being returned.)

According to Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald, we should expect more ideas on relief spending: “House Speaker Laurie Jinkins says lawmakers are in the final stages of assembling the session’s first COVID19-relief spending bill and could file it as early as Friday. Hearings would occur next week, she said.”

Categories: Budget.
Tags: CARES Act , COVID-19 , other federal action on COVID-19 , state action on COVID-19