Washington state governor approves $200 million in coronavirus emergency
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[March 18, 2020]
By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - The governor of Washington
signed legislation on Tuesday approving $200 million in emergency funds
intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus in one of the hardest-hit
Governor Jay Inslee said the money, largely drawn from the state's
"rainy day fund," would go toward the response to the outbreak by the
state Department of Health as well as "social distancing efforts" and
aid to the homeless.
"This bill is really about protecting what we hold most dear, our lives
and the lives of our loved ones," Inslee, a Democrat, said at a
bill-signing event at his office in the state capital, Olympia.
The measure was approved earlier this week by state lawmakers in
Washington, which has over 900 confirmed cases and 48 deaths from the
coronavirus. A long-term care facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland
was the site of one of the nationís first outbreaks.
Inslee conceded it was "very possible" that the state would require even
more money to fight the spread of the respiratory illness in the coming
weeks and months and said he would not hesitate to call lawmakers into a
special session if necessary.
Although Washington was one of the first states to close its school
system and ban large gatherings in the face of the worldwide pandemic,
officials there have not imposed the kind of firm lockdown on residents
seen in such cities as San Francisco.
Inslee said it was possible that he could still issue a
"shelter-in-place" order if health experts deemed it the right move.
[to top of second column]
Governor Jay Inslee gestures as he speaks next to King County
Executive Dow Constantine during a news conference held to announce
measures to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease,
COVID-19, in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 11, 2020.
"This is a day-to-day situation. We are considering the epidemiology
of this epidemic every day or every hour essentially, continually
assessing the impact of our social distancing measures," he said.
"We can't rule anything in our out."
The number of reported U.S. cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by
the coronavirus, surged past 5,800 on Tuesday, with at least 98
confirmed deaths. New York, Washington state and California have the
most confirmed cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness.
The Trump administration on Tuesday pressed Congress to pass a $1
trillion stimulus package to buttress a U.S. economy hit by
coronavirus fears. That legislation could include $1,000 payments to
Americans within two weeks.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Sandra
Maler and Peter Cooney)
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