OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced $43 million will be distributed to help undocumented and agricultural workers in central and eastern Washington handle the coronavirus pandemic. The National Guard will also be deployed to that same area to help with coronavirus testing.
A total of $40 million will be allocated towards helping undocumented workers impacted by COVID-19 who are not eligible for unemployment or stimulus checks due to their immigration status. An extra $3 million will go towards certain food production workers who need to isolate themselves due to COVID-19.
"We know COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on undocumented people and agricultural workers," said Gov. Inslee.
Gov. Inslee said the funding is coming from federal CARES Act dollars that have been allocated to states to help deal with the fallout from the pandemic.
The $40 million will be distributed later this fall once the state determines an entity to run the fund, Gov. Inslee said.
The funding announcement comes after Gov. Inslee visited Okanogan County Thursday morning. The county is considered the latest hot spot in Washington state for COVID-19 cases.
The governor said Okanogan County now has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the state with nearly 900 cases among its 42,000 residents.
The town of Brewster, which has about 2,300 residents, is a particular hot spot with 514 cases, Gov. Inslee said.
A pattern has emerged in the central Washington farm belt with the Tri-Cities, Yakima and the Wenatchee area all being hard-hit by the virus.
All share huge farm economies that require thousands of farmworkers living and working in close proximity.
Gov. Inslee said the National Guard will be deploying to Okanogan County to help test people for COVID-19.
"We are now sending a National Guard mobile testing unit to Okanogan County to provide increased testing but we obviously need the cooperation of people to get tested and, importantly, if they get tested, if they're positive to be able to isolate," said Gov. Inslee.