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Over half of Wyoming’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding ‘out the door’

A Jackalope wears a mask as it greets visitors to Dubois, Wyo., in June, 2020. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News File)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming was allocated about $1.25 billion in federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding out of the $2.2 billion overall economic stimulus packaged passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in March.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said on Monday, Oct. 5 that about $665 million of the funding is “money out the door.”

“We are roughly half way there,” Gordon said. He added that about $931 million overall has been either transferred out toward various stimulus efforts or is in the process of getting “out the door.”

During the 2020 special session, the Wyoming Legislature granted the governor the authority to spend the $1.25 billion in three disbursements.

“The first, amounting to $450M, was available for allocation on May 25,” the Wyoming Sense website says. “The second, amounting to $400M, was available for allocation on July 15. The third, amounting to another $400M, was made eligible for allocation per legislation on September 15.”

The Wyoming Sense website allows people to track how the CARES Act funding has been used and check how much has been spent.

Gordon said on Monday that the state had recently directed an additional $16 million of the CARES Act funds toward the Worker’s Compensation Fund. That money is used to facilitate rate holidays for employers in the state paying into Worker’s Compensation.

“Our concern from the start and certainly right now is that we make sure that our conditions are ripe to preserve our small businesses,” Gordon said. “In fact, I think Wyoming has done an exemplary job with that with things like Worker’s Compensation Fund rate holidays.”

“In addition we’ve put another $25 million into the Unemployment Trust Fund to help ensure that we continue to provide benefits that are able to keep employers’ rates from going up.”

Gordon said that of the overall $1.25 billion, “the greatest preponderance of that has gone to small business relief.”

“I do believe, if we are not the best, [we are] certainly one of the best in terms of supporting our small businesses,” he said.

As of Sept. 30, about $337 million, or 36.24% of the $1.25 billion has been allocated for economic or business relief programs. Wyoming Sense shows how funding has been allocated:

The website also explains that the state created three business relief programs using CARES Act dollars.

“Per legislation passed in the 2020 Special Session, $325M was allotted to help small business across the state in the form of three business relief programs,” Wyoming Sense states.

Those programs are described as follows:

Business Relief Program 1 provided $50M for businesses with less than 50 employees to access up to $50,000 in relief grants. Due to unprecedented demand, Governor Gordon used his flex authority to shift an additional $50M to this program to best serve Wyoming small businesses. 

Business Relief Program 2 makes $175M available for businesses with less than 100 employees to access up to $300,000 in relief grants; 

Business Relief Program 3 makes $50 available for business to reimburse COVID-related expenses like PPE, cleaning supplies, and equipment. The maximum grant under this program is $500,000. Additionally, monies designated for economic and business relief helped provide PPE for businesses and support for remote workers.

Wyoming Sense

Wyoming must commit the total funding by Dec. 31. Wyoming Sense shows the tentative plan for how all the funds will be used:

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.