County Council can't agree on coronavirus spending

At its June 2 meeting, the Pierce County Council failed to pass an emergency supplemental ordinance to the 2020-21 biennial budget related to the coronavirus pandemic response.

Proposal No. 2020-62 would have directed the $67 million for public health emergency response — out of $158 million as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, minus $23 million already spent.

With Pierce County approved to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Plan, which outlines how counties may reopen out of the coronavirus lockdown, Councilmember Derek Young said the funding was critical to testing and contact tracing of COVID-19.

“So, from my perspective, this is about ensuring we can re-open our economy safely,” Young said. “This is critical to the strategy to keep everyone safe.”

Phase 2 means many of Pierce County’s businesses can open with limited capacity and other public health safety restrictions in place.
Dave Morell cautioned that it was premature to release such a large amount of money to the health department in light of economic and health predictions that haven’t been as dire as initially predicted.
“I think the key thing we still need to do is retain our checks and balances as a county,” Morell said.

The emergency supplemental budget ordinance failed to garner the supermajority requirement to pass. Young, Marty Campbell and Connie Ladenburg voted to approve the measure; Morell, Pam Roach, Jim McCune and Chair Douglas Richardson voted against it.

The council also passed an ordinance declaring certain county-owned surplus property — three wheel loaders, a paint striper and three street sweepers — to be authorized for sale.


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