By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming needs to use its $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus assistance to prop up the state’s businesses and it needs to do so quickly, Gov. Mark Gordon said Friday.
Gordon, in his fourth news conference of the week, said he presented his proposal for distribution of the funds to the Legislature’s Management Council on Friday for its consideration.
Gordon is proposing a plan that will take effect in three phases, with the first phase, distributing $575 million, to take place as quickly as possible.
“The businesses that need those funds, the workforce that needs those funds today absolutely need them immediately,” he said. “If we don’t help them immediately, we may not be able to have businesses or the workforce down the road to make use of the funds.”
Gordon’s first phase would help governments pay costs related to the coronavirus pandemic, help hospital and health care providers get the supplies they need to deal with coronavirus, provide grants and loans for businesses, provide assistance for those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, provide assistance to those who cannot pay their rents or mortgages and help food banks.
Much of the business support that would be launched immediately in the form of grants and emergency loans, would be aimed at small businesses that employ the bulk of Wyoming’s workers, Gordon said.
“It’s important that we hit Main Street,” he said. “We want to keep Wyoming businesses viable throughout the duration of COVID-19.”
The second phase of Gordon’s plan would see $300 million used to reimburse cities, towns and counties for the expenses they faced because of coronavirus and the third would use $375 million to continue all of the programs in addition to programs that may be put in place by the Legislature.
No date has been set for a special session, but Gordon said legislators have been discussing holding a short special session in early May to deal with his proposal and perhaps one other, lengthier special session later to deal with state budget problems created with the steep decline seen in mineral activity.
Gordon’s news coincided with the first day some businesses, including gyms and hair salons, were allowed to open since March.
Gordon said he was pleased with how well the opening proceeded.
“We are happy to report that early indications are that our business community is complying with our public health requirements and I know they all care about the results,” he said. “It is indeed an exciting day in Wyoming.”