Federal government will cover most of these costs
BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — As Louisiana government leaders pledge to spend whatever they must to fight the coronavirus pandemic, state files reveal how much money is moving.
Louisiana has spent more than $593 million in response to the virus, as of Tuesday, according to the state’s Division of Administration. State agencies have spent roughly half that amount since last week, and more expenses are likely.
“There’s a huge amount of money being spent,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said in a phone interview. “It’s unlike anything we’ve experienced and unlike anything America could truly prepare for.”
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has spent more than $554 million against the virus so far, well more than any other state agency. Much of that money has gone toward medical supplies and contracts for facilities, including a temporary hospital at New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Louisiana isn’t footing the whole bill. The federal government currently covers 75 percent of what the state spends, and it will cover 90 percent once the state’s total surpasses $661 million.
Here’s what some other state agencies have spent in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (as of Tuesday, Apr. 7):
- Louisiana Department of Health – $20.6 million
- Louisiana Board of Regents – $3.9 million
- Louisiana Division of Administration – $3.7 million
- Louisiana Department of Corrections – $2.9 million
- Louisiana Department of Education – $2.5 million
- Louisiana State Military Department – $2.2 million
The rising expenses come as the pandemic muzzles state revenue streams. The state Board of Regents has taken a $24.7 million revenue hit so far, while the departments of tourism and public safety have each lost $5.7 million.
“We were on track to have a much better financial picture for the state going forward than we have had in a number of years,” Dardenne said. “Now all of that, of course, is yesterday’s news.”
But Dardenne hints that with Louisianians’ help, the state’s fiscal news can at least brighten a bit once the virus subsides.
“When this is over, I think you will see the people of this state wanting to travel,” he said. “They will want to spend money at restaurants and restore some semblance of a normal life, whatever that may be.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards argues rosier days will return more quickly if state resources protect the state’s people — whatever the cost.
“We have to be prepared for what is the worst-case scenario,” Edwards told reporters at his emergency preparedness office Wednesday. “We don’t want to lose life unnecessarily.”