Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

Arizona House Democratic Caucus, 54th Leg.

Things are moving fast at the Arizona Capital regarding the FY21 budget and a recess or sine die for the Legislature.

You may remember that last week the legislature passed a continuation of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and it included $55 million to fight the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Three options are swirling around the capital this week. There is talk about passing a “skinny budget” which would have only a few minor changes from the current fiscal year budget. There are three options: pass a skinny budget, recess for a while, and come back to everything this is on the table; pass the skinny budget and sine die (end the session); or pass the skinny budget with language about how to spend the $55 million in Coronavirus funds and sine die.

The House Democrats brainstormed about ideas and legislation to fight the spread of the Corona virus and to help people and businesses impacted by the shutdown.  Our full Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan is below. This plan was crafted into budget amendments by our staff.

We could pass the skinny budget and end the session as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18. Stay tuned. Headed for the capital now. We have some Floor votes this afternoon. [Posted on Facebook on March 17, 2020.]

Here is the Arizona House and Senate Democrats Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan.

Arizona Coronavirus (CoVID-19) Critical Policy Needs 

  • Communication with the Public and the Legislature:

Public:

  • Plan for mass information dissemination through web, tv, radio and various means to reach different audiences (PSA’s not only web-based, various languages including American sign language)

Legislature:

  • Continue daily updates from Department of Health, include testing reported by private labs.
  • Briefing of the preparedness and response plans with description of triggers precipitating additional action and the plan to address the different levels of need – Briefings can be confidential if necessary.
  • Legislative Policy Actions

Funding

  • Expand and fund access to testing
  • Establish drive-through testing sites at county health departments like those being employed in other countries and the state of Washington
  • Establish free evaluation and testing to those without health insurance
  • Create fund to pay for sick leave for public employees under quarantine or sick
  • Approve 90-day supply of medication and medical supplies for AHCCCS beneficiaries and encourage private insurance to do the same
  • Automatic renewal for AHCCCS beneficiaries during crisis
  • Fund food banks for added food and staffing demands
  • Create public assistance fund for those out of work due to quarantine and can’t pay mortgage/bills
    • One-time appropriations into the Eviction Prevention Grant and Housing Trust Fund to keep people in their home
    • Direct cities and counties to stop all evictions
  • Additional funding for homelessness services (housing, outreach and testing)
  • Establish fund for personal protective equipment for emergency personnel
    • EMT, Paramedics, Hospital workers, Home care providers, Nursing and home providers
  • Funding for aggressive mass transit cleaning schedules (buses, trains, ride sharing, shuttles)

Contingency Budget (if “bare bones” approach is to be pursued, other minimum elements necessary)

  • Fully fund K-12 additional assistance in order to ensure schools have sufficient resources
  • Provide additional funding for elderly, physically disabled and developmentally disabled providers, in order to ensure sufficient workforce needs so that caregivers can continue their critical work
  • Provide additional funding for housing and homelessness services, including shelters, rental assistance and eviction prevention services (Housing Trust Fund could be a possibility above)
  • Increase funding for childcare assistance rates (via CCDF block grant or other means)
  • Create a hospital relief fund, for financial costs incurred by hospitals and other medical providers (can be combined with fund for health workers above)
  • Provide financial resources for counties, cities and towns:
    • Need to ensure adequate staffing at DOR for shared revenue distributions to flow
    • Need to ensure any court/criminal justice funding is appropriated/budgeted
    • Additional funding for local health departments
    • Additional funding for emergency management, law enforcement and first responders
    • Possibly increase 911 funding to ADOA, in order to handle requests related to the pandemic
  • SB 1160 – for firefighter cancer presumption – imperative to cities and towns to be able to address their needs, now more important than ever, since public safety entities will be stressed
  • Consider additional financial resources for state prisons to prepare facilities/personnel
  • Consider additional financial resources for county recorders for public elections or allow SOS to mandate an all-mail general election if we are still under a health emergency (PPE funding would be critical to the counties for reimbursement costs)
  • Relief to counties for the costs of the Department of Juvenile Corrections (DJC)

Policy:

  • Prohibit foreclosures/evictions/utilities turn off during time of emergency
  • Prevent price gouging to keep the cost of essential items within reach of vulnerable populations
  • Streamline unemployment benefits and TANF applications for workers laid off due to any coronavirus-related loss of work
  • Mandate where feasible that wage-earning employees keep healthcare coverage if they temporarily dip below 32 hours a week.
  • Allow flexibility for credentialing and licensing certification for healthcare workforce engaged in the COVID-19 crisis.

Education/Schools

  • Allow flexibility for schools to reduce minimum days of instruction, in order to hold them harmless for funding (needs to be in policy BRB)
    • Allocate extra funding as necessary for school to pay all furloughed employees during closures, including hourly staff.
    • Fund necessary food services for students
    • Create guidelines and flexibility to instructional time requirements
    • Grant the ADE authority to not assign letter grades for the upcoming school year
  • Restore any annual or sick leave employees used during the school closures
  • Establish guidelines for school districts to determine when/if to close schools.
  • Provide funding for school and community center to open as childcare and resource centers
  • Establish guidelines and recommendations:
    • Prohibit employers from penalizing care workers when they are unable to give the 4-hour notice per the agency policy.  Need to ensure that all agencies who interact with DHS and/or AHCCCS are aware that allowing caregivers to call in sick and even encouraging them to self-isolate when ill is imperative.
    • Establish guidelines and pre-planning for mass outages of caregivers. Many homebound disabled and elderly people REQUIRE their care on time and will face real challenges. `
    • Recommend/request that private companies do pay sick leave and not terminate workers for taking sick leave
    • Provide direction/guidelines to hotels and restaurant on additional precautions to handle food and provide services.

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