November 29, 2021

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Dent, other lawmakers say ‘Healthy Washington’ plan penalizes rural counties with low COVID-19 rates | Columbia Basin

OLYMPIA – State Rep. Tom Dent and 39 other legislators have sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee requesting he reexamine his Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan.

Dent says the plan unfairly penalizes rural counties and communities.

“Our letter points out that the governor’s plan penalizes counties and communities who have done a pretty good job of managing their COVID numbers by grouping them with counties who have high COVID numbers,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake. “For example, Kittitas County’s numbers are much lower than neighboring Yakima County. With the way the governor’s plan is set up, Kittitas County is going to be stuck in Phase 1 much longer than they need to be, because the urban areas to the south are inflating the region’s COVID metrics. It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t fair to those counties and the communities in regions with lower numbers.”

As part of the plan, the state is broken into eight regions. Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties are included in the North Central Region. Kittitas and Adams counties are grouped into the South Central Region with Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Walla Walla and Yakima counties. All eight regions in the state remain in Phase 1 of the reopening plan.

The lawmaker’s letter also references several small towns in eastern Washington with few COVID-19 cases that are in the same region as Spokane County, which lawmakers say could delay small town’s move to Phase 2.

“I am getting inundated with emails and phone calls,” Dent added. “Folks are frustrated, upset, depressed and don’t know what to do. You can hear the worry and concern in their voice. You truly feel for these people. I want to do anything I can to help.”

Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate that would immediately move the entire state into Phase 2 of the plan.

“Folks want and need to go back to work, others are business owners who are hanging on by a thread, some are parents who are concerned about their children’s mental well-being because they aren’t in school and others are waiting on their unemployment check,” Dent stated. “I would expect the governor to take another look at this issue, and soon.”

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