Washington state agencies submitted their budget requests to the governor’s office this month, documents that typically highlight their priorities for the upcoming and upcoming fiscal year. This year’s budget requests were no different, and the Wire selected specific requests from three departments to launch our budget coverage.
COVID spending will be with us for a long time
The state’s COVID-19 budget will not go away next year, or even in 2023. The Washington Department of Health plans to spend a total of $ 212 million over the next two years in response to the pandemic , ranging from funding testing, contact tracing and investigation, coordinating care and responding to epidemics, to name a few.
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This means COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and state and local agencies should plan accordingly. Let’s take a look at the numbers, as presented in the budget request:
While the legislature has authorized the Department of Health to spend up to $ 1.1 billion in federal funding to fight the pandemic through 2023, it is unclear whether that will be enough to cover the expenses. This additional $ 212 million is designed to ensure that the department can continue its work.
In the 2021 state budget, the Department of Health received $ 900 million in federal spending authorization. As of July, the ministry identified the shortfall of $ 212 million, mainly due to FEMA’s cut in its reimbursement at the end of this year. Currently, FEMA covers the entire COVID-19 costs of the ministry for activities such as testing and responding to outbreaks. It will reduce it to 75% from January.
Since the passage of the CARES law, insurance companies have been required to pay for COVID-19 tests without charging patients for the service, but it is uncertain whether the federal government will continue to require it. Health insurance typically does not pay for asymptomatic testing – which has been a crucial part of the pandemic mitigation strategy. The Department of Health has estimated it will need $ 435 million for diagnostic and screening tests until June 30, 2023.
It’s also worth noting that the ministry plans to fund vaccinations until at least 2024.
“The reluctance to face vaccines and the growing threat of variants present significant obstacles for the state to resume normal business activities and move beyond the pandemic,” says the department’s budget request.
A breakdown of immunization funding requests can be viewed below:
Washington state has met its goal of having 70% of people eligible for a vaccine receive at least one dose by mid-July. But vaccinations are not equal across the state or among demographic groups. While the Department of Health’s vaccine work has received significant federal funding, the scale of the need has exceeded funding, the report says.
This means the department is moving into a long war with COVID-19, and gives credit to the idea that it is here to stay, and likely rampant.
Dispute Resolution Centers
The Commerce Department is asking for more funding for state dispute resolution centers, which have been chronically underfunded in recent years. These centers provide programs to communities to support housing and family stability, as well as restorative practices for youth and the community with an emphasis on equity.
The 2021-2023 operating budget provided for $ 6 million over two years to fund these centers. Although the ministry’s request notes that this is an increase from previous years, it remains well below the $ 17.1 million per biennium envisaged by state law. The 2021-2023 Supplementary Budget Request requests an additional $ 4.1 million to fund these centers, which have seen increased demand during the pandemic.
Demand is expected to increase further as the moratoriums on evictions end and people begin to face eviction threats.
“This request will not close the entire funding gap, but it will ensure that more Washingtonians have access to low-cost or no-charge dispute resolution services,” the request says.
There are 21 dispute resolution centers across the state that, in 2020, served nearly 60,000 people, mediated 2,562 cases and trained 7,721 community members in mediation.
Improving prison health care
The Department of Corrections is requesting $ 27.6 million to implement a new healthcare model to care for inmates with chronic health conditions, provide preventive care, and expand care for high-risk patients.
The Washington State Department of Corrections’ obsolete and underfunded health care delivery system is severely flawed, according to demand.
A screenshot of the budget request can be viewed below:
Nationally, the request says Washington ranks 20th nationally for health spending per inmate, lower than states like North Carolina, New York, Alaska and Nebraska. The Department of Corrections provides on-demand health care based on a combination of emergency appointment requests and intermittent visits by on-site and out-patient medical providers.
“These episodes of care are delivered sporadically and do not provide a comprehensive model of primary care delivery. Specifically, they may lack key essentials related to preventive services or the identification and management of diseases such as diabetes, kidney and heart disease. Responsive healthcare fails to meet the continuing needs of the DOC population and puts its patients, staff and Washington state at risk, ”the request states.
The nursing home model of care allows inmates to have an ongoing relationship with a senior clinician and support team to provide ongoing and comprehensive care. The care team will be led by an advanced nurse practitioner or physician leading a medical team. The budget request will also increase the medical workforce.
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