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State OKs $108M in coronavirus funds

Updated July 29, 2020 - 12:55 pm

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers Wednesday approved an additional $108 million in federal pandemic assistance funds for Nevada’s COVID-19 response, nearly 80 percent of it to support lab testing, contact tracing and disease investigation through the end of the year.

Besides the $85 million to support testing and tracing, the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee approved $20 million in CARES Act funding in rental assistance for small businesses hurt by the outbreak. Another $3.1 million was approved to support online ordering and home delivery for families on supplemental nutrition assistance who have been exposed to the virus and can’t go to a store.

“I’m on the receiving end of phone calls every day of families desperately in need of food and not able to leave their homes,” said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, the committee chair, as members unanimously approved the outlay.

CARES Act funds must be allocated and spent by the end of the year. The money for testing and tracing supports the state’s overall goal of contacting those who test positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours, testing close contacts of the person within the next 24 hours, and testing at least 2 percent Nevada’s population, about 60,000 people, each month.

Roughly 600 people are working as contact tracers in Nevada through state, county and local health departments, which will get $25 million combined, and other entities.

“I appreciate that a workforce of 600 seems excessive, but in national reports they said we should have around 30 contact tracers per 100,000, and that would put us closer to 1,000 people working on this effort,” said Julia Peek, deputy administrator in the state Department of Public and Behavioral Health.

Another $28.8 million is earmarked for the state public health lab and $12.5 million to its Southern Nevada counterpart for supplies, testing and IT upgrades.

The $20 million in small-business aid is available to businesses with a commercial lease that have seen a 30 percent or more drop in revenues because of the pandemic. Another $30 million in CARES Act funds is available for tenant rental assistance.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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