With the novel Coronavirus pandemic swirling around the Arizona capital and, most likely, through the halls of the legislature, the Arizona House passed the skinny budget with the Senate-negotiated bipartisan package to address the pandemic in Arizona.
The budget includes $50 million to address the Coronavirus. Along with the emergency response funding of $55 million for the Arizona Department of Health Services, which was passed by the Legislature a couple of weeks ago, that makes $105 million, which the Legislature has earmarked for the Coronavirus reponse. The additional $50 million, which was part of the Senate plan, goes to the governor, and he has flexibility on how to spend it and IF it should be spent.
This is a good first step, but some of us think that the House Democratic amendments would have fleshed out this plan a bit more. For example, there were Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan amendments to give $10 million to the food bank system, $40 million to the Housing Trust Fund (to help with￼ rent, mortgage payments and eviction prevention), funds to expand TANF to five years and increase the amount per month (which is now set at 36% of the 1992 poverty rate), and funds to increase unemployment compensation, which, of course, is one of the worst in the country at ~$240/week.
None of these specifics got into the budget. We will have to watch Governor Ducey and what he does with his flexibility on spending the funds we have allotted. No one knows exactly what the future will bring, so some flexibility is a good thing.￼
The legislature adjourned until April 13, three weeks from now. Who knows where we will be in three weeks. As of today, March 24, 2020, Arizona￼ has 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths. Two weeks ago, the number jumped from six cases to nine. Almost 100 confirmed cases were added between yesterday and today.
Since Arizona and the rest of the United States are behind on diagnostic testing, the numbers are abnormally low and there are people among us who don’t know they have Coronavirus.
Banner Health recently announced that it is opening remote screening sites in their parking lots. You have to be prescreened over the phone in advance. Our healthcare system in the state of Arizona including the Veterans Hospitals, will likely be overwhelmed by the Coronavirus, we don’t practice strict social distancing. Please stay home and work from home if you can. If you are sick or a family member is sick, please stay home. There is supposed to be monetary relief for workers. House Democratic staff have been compiling resource lists, which I will post here and on my website.￼
Italy is up to 2500 deaths per day and climbing. Please stay safe!