Coronavirus: $300 unemployment-pay add-ons start but won’t last. 2nd Idaho inmate dies

Posted at 4:17 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 18:17:10-04

This article was originally published by Ruth Brown, Jacob Scholl and Audrey Dutton.

The state says it will begin issuing the new $300 federal supplements to state unemployment compensation to jobless Idahoans this week.

But there’s only enough money for the five weeks that have already passed since the original $600 weekly supplements expired in late July. They cover the weeks ending Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. That means some workers who were unemployed for all five weeks could receive the entire $1,500 at once.

The $600 supplements were authorized by Congress in March as part of a coronavirus-relief law. But after they expired, Congress and President Trump could not agree whether to continue them at $600, as Democrats wanted, or sharply reduce them, as Republicans sought. So Trump tapped previously appropriated federal disaster-relief funds to create the $300 supplements.

At first, Trump called upon states to add $100 payments of their own, bringing the payments to $400. When some states said they couldn’t afford to, the administration allowed states to apply their existing unemployment compensation to their $100 share instead. Idaho Gov. Brad Little had considered using unspent money Idaho received from another provision of the coronavirus relief law for the $100 but decided not to.

Trump’s executive order excluded people who receive less than $100 per week from the supplemental benefits, but Little said the state will seek to spend up to $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay the $300 supplements to those workers, too.

“Idaho is third among states for lowest unemployment rates, thanks to the investments and creativity of Idaho’s businesses in safely reopening,”Little said in a news release. “We chose to participate in President Trump’s new program as part of a comprehensive approach to our economic rebound, which includes small business grants and return-to-work incentives.”


A second prisoner of the Idaho Department of Correction died of COVID-19 on Sunday after being hospitalized.

“With great sadness, the Idaho Department of Correction reports the death of a 64-year-old man hospitalized with COVID-19,” IDOC said in a news release. “The man was transported from Idaho State Correctional Center to a Boise hospital for treatment on Aug. 14.”

As of Tuesday morning, the man’s identity has yet to be released by IDOC.

The first man to die in IDOC custody was 66-year-old Frank Dawson Conover. Conover was also an ISCC inmate who had been taken to a hospital, where he died.

ISCC is a 2,128-bed men’s prison in Kuna that reported the largest number of coronavirus cases among the state prisons.


Officials from some of Idaho’s largest health care organizations said Tuesday that they’re encouraged by early signs of an improvement in Idaho’s COVID-19 cases. But they urged vigilance over the Labor Day weekend, to prevent outbreaks similar to those they saw after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays.

Medical leaders from Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s health systems, Saltzer Health, Primary Health Medical Group and others said that coronavirus testing numbers remain high. They are seeing a decline in the percentage of tests that come back positive, though. That “positivity rate” is a key metric to help determine how widespread the virus is in a community.

Health care providers and global public health experts have said COVID-19 test positivity rates should be below 5%. This summer, rates have exceeded 10% or even 20% in many of Idaho’s communities.

Test positivity rates in the Treasure Valley seem to be trending downward, which is good, local health care leaders said Tuesday. But there remain pockets of concern. For example, Saltzer Health Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Kaiser cited positivity rates of 15% in Canyon County compared with 8% in Ada County.


Local health officials reported 188 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the second straight day where Idaho has reported fewer than 200. On Sunday, health officials reported 152 new cases.

In addition to the declining new case numbers, health officials also reported five new deaths related to COVID-19.

Three deaths were reported in Canyon County, which now has 78 reported deaths. Ada and Bonneville counties each reported one death, and the counties’ totals are now 126 and 11 as of Monday evening. According to East Idaho Public Health, the Bonneville County death was that of a woman in her 70s.

Since the pandemic began, Idaho has reported 364 coronavirus-related deaths.

Several counties around Idaho reported double-digit new cases on Monday. Reporting the most was Ada County with 61 new cases, bringing its overall count to 10,433. Other counties with double-digit totals Monday were Bonneville (27 new), Canyon (18), Kootenai (16) and Nez Perce (12).

Overall, Idaho has 29,832 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 30 new “probable” cases on Monday, bringing that total to 2,341. Of those diagnosed with the virus, IDHW reports that 14,963 people have recovered. As of Monday evening, 255,348 COVID-19 tests have been completed statewide, and Idaho’s positive test rate is around 11.7%, according to IDHW.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in all of Idaho’s 44 counties: Ada 10,433, Adams 24, Bannock 625, Bear Lake 37, Benewah 111, Bingham 448, Blaine 588, Boise 48, Bonner 206, Bonneville 1,476, Boundary 43, Butte 20, Camas 3, Canyon 6,823, Caribou 40, Cassia 529, Clark 17, Clearwater 20, Custer 28, Elmore 233, Franklin 51, Fremont 101, Gem 188, Gooding 199, Idaho 41, Jefferson 299, Jerome 536, Kootenai 2,168, Latah 232, Lemhi 51, Lewis 8, Lincoln 58, Madison 199, Minidoka 514, Nez Perce 274, Oneida 19, Owyhee 276, Payette 587, Power 125, Shoshone 195, Teton 108, Twin Falls 1,514, Valley 78 and Washington 259.

Community spread has been detected in most counties: Ada, Bannock, Bear Lake, Benewah, Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonner, Bonneville, Boundary, Canyon, Caribou, Cassia, Clark, Clearwater, Custer, Elmore, Fremont, Gem, Gooding, Idaho, Jefferson, Jerome, Kootenai, Latah, Lemhi, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka, Nez Perce, Oneida, Owyhee, Payette, Power, Shoshone, Teton, Twin Falls, Valley and Washington.