Gov. Little delivers COVID-19 update

Gov. Brad Little responds to questions from the media as he delivers an update on Idaho's response to the COVID-19 outbreak during a press conference at the Idaho State Capitol, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

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Here's an article from the Lewiston Tribune:

By William L. Spence

BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little said the state is in good financial position to weather the coronavirus storm, although the impact will likely be “somewhere between bad and badder.”

Idaho currently has more than $373 million in savings — a number that should bump up to $423 million by July 1.

The state also has an excellent credit rating, Little said, and its retirement plan is ranked as one of the soundest in the nation.

While he hasn’t received any estimates regarding the potential effect on state revenues, the governor said the COVID-19 crisis will present “headwinds” and tailwinds for the state’s economy.

“Probably my biggest economic concern is what’s going to happen to the small restaurant worker and restaurant owner,” Little said. “Those are the areas that are really being impacted. That’s our headwind — anything that closed down, transportation, tourism. Our tailwind is the very cheap interest rates and cheap energy costs.”

The governor plans to “analyze the headwinds to see how we can ameliorate the impacts. Then I’ll look at the tailwinds to see what we can do to take advantage of them.”

Once the legislative session ends, he said, he’ll reach out to the Department of Building Safety “and find out what’s happening with building permits. Has that come to a screeching halt? We have coronavirus, but there’s also record-low interest rates and a huge demand for houses.”

Little also issued an appeal for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus to contact the state.

The information will help determine whether Idaho businesses can qualify for disaster assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Businesses can find an SBA Disaster Economic Injury worksheet on the Department of Commerce website, at commerce.idaho.gov/covid-19. Completed forms should be emailed to Jerry Miller at jerry.miller@commerce.idaho.gov. For alternative submission options, call (208) 287-0780.

Outside of the direct economic impacts from COVID-19, Little said his biggest worry is the effect this situation has on people’s mental health.

“We were having a pretty good discussion about behavioral health in schools, in prisons, in society. This is just going to put that problem on steroids,” he said. “Other countries where they’re telling people to not go outside? That’s crazy. I think for peace of mind, for mental and physical health — people need to be taking care of themselves.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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