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Wyoming has until 2026 to spend ~$1.7B in ARP funds; legislature scrap special summer session

A woman walks past the newly rebuilt Herschler Building near the restored Wyoming State Capitol building in Cheyenne. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — While there had been talk of the Wyoming Legislature holding a special session in July to guide the use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funding allocated to the Cowboy State, it appears that special session won’t happen after all.

Wyoming has already received $534 million in federal funding under the ARP and expects to receive an additional $534 million in 2022.

“Unlike the short time frame to expend funds received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the State of Wyoming has until December 31, 2024 to obligate the ARPA funds and until December 31, 2026 to spend these funds,” a joint release from Governor Mark Gordon, Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader and Speaker of the House Eric Barlow states.

The release states that Gordon, Barlow and Dockstader do not see a need for the special session this summer “but are committed to following the normal processes for development of the state budget and legislative committee bills to develop priorities for the allocation of ARPA funds.”

“A product developed with months of deliberation will be significantly better than any legislation compiled in a few days of hearings and a week-long special session,” Dockstader said in the release. “We can utilize our standard budget hearing and standing committee processes to allocate these funds in a conservative manner during the 2022 Budget Session.” 

Barlow added: “The federal law provides ample time to be methodical in determining our priorities. We can use this time to take public testimony, have robust discussions among the legislative membership to develop legislative priorities fully and thoughtfully, and to collaborate with the executive and judicial branches to determine the best and highest uses of ARPA funds.” 

While the special session is not expected to go ahead, planning surrounding the use of the ARP funding is on-going.

Gordon has developed a “strike team” to identify what Wyoming “needs to do to survive, and what can be done to better drive to a future where all of Wyoming can thrive.” Gordon also expects to direct some of the $534 million already received to address emergency funding issues this year.

Gordon will present initial recommendations for emergency use of the ARP funds to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee on June 15 in Cheyenne.

The release notes that Gordon has identified “enduring funding criteria” for use of the ARP dollars outside of emergency uses:

  •   Have a long-term impact or a return on investment 
  •   Not replenish budget cuts unless the replenishment can be sustained 
  •   Be sustainable and not add to the State’s ongoing financial responsibilities 
  •   Support stimulus over relief 
  •   Where possible, leverage the dollars through matching or buy-in programs  
  •   Create capacity for the future 
  •   Benefit a wide group of citizens 

“These are dollars borrowed by Congress from many generations yet to come, and if we are going to use them, in my mind, those future generations that will be paying for them must also benefit from them,” Gordon said in the release.  “ARPA funds, if we are to use them, must be for the greater benefit of Wyoming citizens, not for a few shiny distractions.” 

The release adds that Gordon, Dockstader and Barlow acknowledge school districts and local governments will not see their state funding further reduced this year. However, they could possibly face reductions during the 2023-2024 biennium depending on what happens during the 2022 Budget Session.