Idaho’s Special Legislative Session and the Coronavirus

Monday marked the start of a brief special session for the Idaho legislature. The session, occurring in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily addressed voting and the coronavirus response. The discussion of the state-level response to the coronavirus pandemic drew protesters to the gallery and committee rooms, putting hundreds of legislators and staff at risk. Without any regard for safety measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask, this is the first time I have truly not felt safe at work.

Late Monday night, I stood before the State Affairs committee, and passionately testified against the passage of HCR1. This resolution, proposed by Representative Harris, seeks to revoke Governor Little’s Emergency Declaration and terminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds as Idaho continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration in place allows Idaho to draw much needed FEMA funding for critical resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for both Long Term Care Facilities and Hospitals. Revoking this declaration will put a heavy burden on taxpayers.

As of Tuesday morning, HCR1 has passed through the House.

Should HCR1 be addressed and passed by the Senate, Idaho will lose the ability to draw from $117 million in FEMA funding. Currently, Idaho has set aside $39 million for critical supplies. However, if the emergency declaration is revoked, we will no longer be able to access these necessary funds, leaving our hospitals and Long Term Care Facilities to fend for themselves. We simply cannot eliminate a much-needed resource that we may have to draw on in future months.

Late last week, I had the opportunity to discuss the coronavirus with Dr. Birx from the White House team. The conversation centered around concerns with regards to Idaho’s trendline and made it clear that Idaho is not in a position to end an emergency declaration and cut off future FEMA funding.

As much as we wish this virus was going away, Idaho’s trends indicate that it is far from behind us.

While we continue to respond to this life-threatening pandemic, it is critical that we retain the opportunity for federal funding through FEMA as this will help Idaho receive PPE for hospitals and care centers. Without access to this equipment and funding, Idaho is at serious risk of experiencing the deeper impacts of COVID-19.

As the special session comes to a close, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that we need to elect leaders up and down the ballot so we can keep our communities and our loved ones safe. Please remember to do all you can to stop the spread of coronavirus and stay safe!


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