At its Aug. 25 meeting, the Pierce County Council unanimously approved the creation of a Pierce County COVID-19 School Assistance Program to help in-county schools navigate the new school year amid all the challenges in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The program will make money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act available to all K-12 school districts, tribal schools, Washington State Board of Education-approved private schools and Washington State Charter Commission-approved charter schools with campuses in Pierce County.

“This, I think, is critical to supporting our schools,” Councilmember Derek Young said, noting that getting the funds to schools in a timely manner has been an important consideration.

“With this ordinance, our goal is to help where we can push these funds out to our schools with efficiency from our county Finance Department,” Councilmember Dave Morell said.

Allocation of funds will be based on student enrollment, with $750,000 being the maximum amount per eligible school provider. For those learning institutions with smaller student enrollment figures, the following minimums were set: $5,000 for eligible recipients with fewer than 75 students; $10,000 for eligible recipients with 74 to 149 students; and $25,000 for eligible recipients with 150 to 360 students.

In order to be eligible to receive funds, school providers must enter into an agreement with Pierce County. At minimum, approved providers must agree to use the money in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, comply with CARES Act requirements and provide a summary of funds used or planned use of funds.

The emergency ordinance passed by a vote of 6-0, with Councilmember Jim McCune having an excused absence from the meeting.