TORRINGTON – Governor Mark Gordon has signed and enacted three bills passed during a special session of the Wyoming Legislature held earlier this month.
The bills spell out the ways Wyoming will spend $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds. The bills also created an eviction prevention program and created three relief programs for small and large businesses.
“I want to say I was very proud of our legislature for dealing with very difficult issues, very difficult bills in a very challenging kind of an environment under enormous amounts of scrutiny and stress,” Gordon said during a press conference Wednesday. “They actually did their work very well and I’m very happy with the bills that we’ve gotten.”
Senate File 1001 gives Gordon the ability to spend the CARES Act funds through three allotments. The first will be $450 million, which is available immediately for COVID-19 response. The funds are to be used to cover expenses incurred by cities and towns during the pandemic, assist health care providers with their emergency response and improve the state’s capacity to provide mental health services in the wake of the pandemic, as well as other needs across the states. The bill is written broadly, Gordon said, to ensure all problem areas can be covered.
“This bill provides flexibility for us to respond to the needs of our state’s residents,” Gordon said. “I’ve been calling around for the last few weeks to get the particulars of what citizens want and need.”
Senate File 1002 will create an eviction prevention program that will be administered by the Wyoming Community Development Authority. WCDA Director Scotts Hoversland said the state is modeling its program after a similar one in Montana in order to start distributing aid.
“We are trying to get this up and running as smoothly as possible,” he said.
House Bill 1004 establishes three programs to aid businesses of all sizes and help them recoup losses suffered during COVID-19. The Wyoming Business Interruption Stipend Program, which is being developed by the Wyoming Business Council, will distribute $50 million to Wyoming companies. According to a press release from Gordon’s office, the bill will provide “businesses with 50 or fewer employees with grants of up to $50,000 dollars; $225 million for the ‘Coronavirus Business Relief Stipend Program’ to assist businesses with up to 100 employees with stipends of up to $300,000; and $50 million for the ‘Coronavirus Mitigation Stipend Program’ that will help Wyoming businesses of any size pay for COVID-19 related expenses up to $500,000.”
WBC CEO Josh Dorrell said WBC hopes to begin disbursing funds by the beginning of June, provided the program can be established that quickly.
“We will be developing these programs from scratch,” he said. “We’ll be developing guidelines, technology and processes to make it happen. We’ll need to ensure the security of the system and minimalize the likelihood of fraud. We’ll also do our best to ensure accessibility so that all affected business owners in the state can easily provide the required information.
“This process will definitely take time to get it right, but we know we must work as fast as possible to deliver on the vision of helping businesses gain access to this grant money with as little red tape as possible.”
Gordon said the state is doing its best to use the money in the best ways possible.
“The CARES Act funding is federal funding, and as with all of the funding we receive from the federal government, we want to be good stewards of the money we receive,” he said.