PAYETTE COUNTY — The phrase “lost in translation” could be used to describe how legislation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in Idaho, as Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, noted in a newsletter to constituents on Friday.
The newsletter followed a press conference held the same day by Gov. Brad Little, who told Idahoans that pending legislation, including House Concurrent Resolution 1 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 101, could threaten the state’s access to emergency funding and vaccines against COVID-19.
“In Senate State Affairs, I co-sponsored legislation to end the emergency declaration while preserving the FEMA dollars,” Lee wrote in her newsletter. “This federal partnership provides continued assistance to address PPE needs for schools and hospitals, funding for our National Guard that has been deployed to assist with COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution, as well as additional loans and programs to help our small businesses continue to survive – especially in our rural communities.”
Lee added that she felt it unfortunate that Little interpreted the legislation as a requirement to “end all funding.”
“This might give you a feel for how he feels about any power being removed from the Executive Branch,” she added.
Lee added that the real burden on Idahoans stems from Little’s Stay Healthy Orders rather than the emergency declaration. She agreed with Little as far as ending the declaration not helping the state’s position.
“If Idaho simply ended any FEMA funding, we would immediately be on the hook for almost $27 million to pay for these recovery efforts. As I’ve learned more, I realize this is not the right path.”
In an email to the newspaper on Saturday, Lee stated the purpose of the resolution is not what Little made it out to be.
“The Senate did not advance any legislation that would cut off funds,” wrote Lee. “Instead of mounting a PR campaign, the Governor needs to help address some of these concerns. Why can kids sit next to each other in the lunchroom but then they are banned from going to a ballgame that same night, in a county that has no COVID cases?”
Lee emphasized a need to put those who know their communities in charge of controlling COVID-19, rather than a top-down response.
“We are asking for local responses and not statewide restrictions. And so are many of the people we represent,” wrote Lee.
Lee further noted in her newsletter that she was pleased to see Little’s office announce guidance to end restrictions on athletic events and legislation to make to make such moves permanent are expected.
“The ability to attend high school athletic games may seem like a small thing to some, but those of us in rural communities know this matters – to our kids and to our sense of normalcy. I’m hoping this signals an end to removing many of the other onerous restrictions.”