CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming House of Representatives adopted two amendments to House Bill 1004 during the special session on Friday, May 15 which make changes to proposed COVID-19 relief programs for small businesses in the state.
The largest of the three programs was initially slated to be a $175 million coronavirus business relief loan program. However, some in the state’s banking industry indicated that Wyoming banks are already overwhelmed managing a high volume of Small Business Administation Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Article continues below...
House District 27 Representative Mike Greear introduced an amendment in order “to make this a better, cleaner bill, more workable for people.” The House adopted Greear’s amendment which does away with the proposed loan program and turns it into a stipend program.
The amendment does not modify the overall funding that would go toward the proposed program. With the amendment, the bill proposes appropriating $275 million of $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act qualifying funding which has been received by the state toward the following three programs:
- $50 million for the Wyoming business interruption stipend program
- $175 million for the coronavirus business relief stipend program
- $50 million for the coronavirus mitigation stipend program
“Every business has risks,” Greear said in explaining his amendment. “Business owners understand that they have to deal with those risks. We’re fortunate to be in a position as the House of Representatives to be able to help deal with the risk that came out of the blue.”
Greear noted that the he had left other aspect of the $175 million business relief program unchanged in the amendment. To be eligible, businesses would still have to be Wyoming owned and operated with 100 employees or fewer.
The stipend program would be administered by the Wyoming Business Council and businesses would be required to certify they are eligible.
“The applicant will submit a plan on a simple form to the business council,” Greear explained. “I hope that to be a very, very simple form.”
The WBC could still partner with financial institutions to help administer the stipends.
“The business council may go ahead and contract with our financial institutions,” Greear said. “Banks may be in good place to get the word out and help get applications in.”
He said one main eligibility requirement would be to show that a business intends to try to continue operating in Wyoming, with a requirement that they agree to continue operating in Wyoming for at least three years. The up to $300,000 stipends could be used to pay for the following, according to the amendment:
- Payroll costs
- Business supplies
- Business equipment including equipment necessary to resuming normal business operations and equipment necessary to modify business operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or to public health guidelines
- Other business expenses, including but not limited to rent or mortgage payments, utilities and other operational costs
- Any other expenditure or expense related to business interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic
If businesses don’t use stipend funds for these purposes, they would have to repay the funds plus 2% annual interest. Greear said that businesses which fail would not be expected to pay back the grant, but that if businesses tried to access the stipends with no intention of staying in Wyoming, the state may seek legal action to take back the funding.
The House adopted another amendment to House Bill 1001 introduced by Speaker Pro Tempore Albert Sommers.
That amendment increases the base business interruption stipend available to businesses under the $50 million business interruption stipend program from $15,000 to $20,000.
Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow questioned whether $20,000 would be much help to businesses.
“My question is is $20,000 enough?” he asked “Let’s think about the reality of what the costs have been [under multiple weeks of business interruption].”
Greear, who is House Chair of the Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development which prepared the legislation, said that the $50 million business interruption program was intended “to be a quick hitter for those businesses that did not get the PPP.”
He said the larger $175 million coronavirus business relief stipend program was the program intended to “help the businesses heal.” Greear said the business interruption program was intended to have only a one page application in order to get the money out to businesses, “hopefully within two weeks of today’s meeting.”
House District 05 Representative Shelly Duncan, also a member of the Joint Minerals Committee, said that the business interruption program aims to help businesses which missed the cutoff to receive PPP funding or who didn’t qualify.
“This is that stop-gap for all of those that fell through the cracks,” she said.
With the adoption of the two amendments, the three programs would include the following stipend amounts and eligibility guidelines:
- $50 million Wyoming business interruption stipend program:
- Wyoming owned and operated businesses with 50 full time employees or less as of March 31 who experienced interruptions due to COVID-19 public health orders
- $20,000 to maximum $50,000 awards (depending on number of employees)
- preference given to businesses which didn’t receive federal PPP funding
- $175 million coronavirus business relief loan program
- Wyoming owned and operated businesses with 100 full time employees or less as of March 31 who were “adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or by required closures”
- stipends $300,000
- $50 million coronavirus mitigation stipend program
- “to reimburse COVID-related expenses that an eligible business actually incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 1, 2020”
- can include costs of cleaning products, personal protective equipment, training expenses, etc.
- maximum $500,000
After passing the bill on second reading, the House recessed until 9 pm to give at least 90 minutes between second and third reading of any bill considered during the special session.
Under the special rules for the session, bills which pass on third reading would move to the second chamber for consideration. They would then be assigned to a Joint Conference Committee to resolve differences.e
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.