Idaho will earmark $31 million for coronavirus tests for teachers, and protective supplies for schools.
The money will come from Idaho’s cut from the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, passed this spring.
Gov. Brad Little says the two line items will help Idaho schools reopen this fall.
The $31 million breaks down as follows:
Testing: The state will use $21 million to cover coronavirus tests for teachers and school staff. The state will act as a “payer of last resort,” covering testing if private insurance carriers don’t, Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.
Protective gear: The state will spend $10 million on face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and plexiglass shields, based on estimates of what schools will need for 2020-21, Department of Administration Director Keith Reynolds said.
Acting quickly Friday morning, Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee approved both requests. The committee is parceling out Idaho’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act money.
“Our No. 1 focus is to get our kids back in school safely for in-person instruction, and the additional funds approved today help get us there,” Little said Friday. “Before coronavirus, too many Idaho students faced a significant achievement gap and ongoing risks to their mental and social wellbeing. It’s imperative that students return to their classrooms and interact directly with their teachers and classmates.”
The committee also approved other line items designed to improve Idaho’s testing capacity — an ongoing issue, as the state tries to track the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak. A $13 million line item will go toward testing at long-term care facilities, $3 million will go toward expanding testing options at rural pharmacies and $3 million will go toward improving the turnaround time on test results from Idaho labs.
By beefing up the infrastructure and expanding testing in rural Idaho, the state could receive an additional 15,000 to 20,000 test results per week, Jeppesen said. The state now gets about 23,000 test results weekly.