At the Legislature, we have been working hard to put pandemic relief on a fast track. This week, we passed a historic $2.2 billion package that will expand testing and vaccine distribution, provide support to schools, make grants available for small business, and help thousands meet basic needs with housing and food assistance.
The main provisions of HB 1368 include:
- $618 million for vaccine administration, contract tracing, and testing.
- $668 million for schools as they resume in-person learning and dedicated funding to help children catch up with learning loss during the pandemic.
- $365 million for rental assistance to help tenants and landlords impacted by the pandemic.
- $240 million for at least 12,000 small business assistance grants.
- $70 million to assist undocumented immigrants who have been affected by the pandemic and do not qualify for federal or state assistance.
- $50 million in grants to help keep childcare businesses open and expand their capacity.
- $26 million for food assistance to individuals and households in need.
This is a major step, with many more to come. We are working on bills to improve our unemployment insurance system, help bars and restaurants recover, and exempt public emergency assistance grants to businesses from taxes on the grant income.
Special open enrollment on the health care exchange
President Biden has issued an executive order to re-open the federal health insurance marketplace and give Americans extra time to find health care coverage during the pandemic. To that end, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange will open another special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15. During that time, you can enroll if you are uninsured or are enrolled in off-Exchange health insurance.
To get started, contact the Customer Support Center between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY: 855-627-9604, or visit https://www.wahealthplanfinder.org/_content/find-expert-advice.html.
Stay in Touch
If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.
Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch. Stay safe and take care.
Senator Karen Keiser
Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore