County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is asking the Pima County Board of Supervisors to suspend county-sponsored COVID-19 testing after notification that the state will not reimburse the county for most of its testing costs.
At a special board meeting Friday, Huckelberry said he'll ask the board to halt free coronavirus testing as of Feb. 22 to avoid incurring further deficit costs.
In a memo to the board, Huckelberry said the county reported to the state that $47.75 million was spent on PCR COVID-19 testing since April, with more than $10.68 million coming from county funds.
State officials said they could reimburse Pima County for only $1 million, according to an email from Eugene Livar, the chief of the epidemiology and disease control bureau at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
When the state submits its budget for federal approval in mid-March, Livar said ADHS can “reassess the funding available to support Pima County's testing needs,” but they likely won’t be able to “support the entirety of the $40,274,448 need but will likely be able to provide some level of support.”
While initially running the county’s testing operations under the assumption they would be partially covered by the $416 million provided to Arizona for testing through the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Huckelberry wrote in the memo that the federal funds are “being used by the State for other purposes,” adding, “It appears the uses for which the State will be using these funds is for everything but COVID-19 testing.”
Pima County currently has several sites offering free COVID-19 testing through partnerships with Arizona State University, the City of Tucson, Accu Reference Labs and Paradigm Labs.
If the Board of Supervisors approves the motion Friday, the free testing will cease across the county.
“This is unfortunate as it was abundantly clear to Pima County that the State allocation was for COVID-19 testing,” Huckelberry wrote in the memo. “At least that was the impression we were left with in reviewing the Federal 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act.”