By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Three pieces of legislation providing relief from coronavirus impacts for businesses and renters in Wyoming were approved by the Legislature during its two-day special session.
During the session, which ended Saturday, legislators approved bills authorizing Gov. Mark Gordon to spend $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and specifying how some of the money will be spent.
One bill set aside $325 million for three programs to provide businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic with relief in the form of grants.
One program, the “Wyoming Business Interruption Stipend” program, will provide grants of up to $20,000 to businesses affected by closures ordered by the state to slow the spread of coronavirus. The businesses would also receive $2,000 for each full-time employee and $1,000 for each part-time employee.
The bill set aside $50 million for the program.
Another program, the “Coronavirus Business Relief Stipend” program, will provide businesses with grants of up to $300,000 to provide relief for losses they may have experienced during the pandemic. The money can be used to pay for payroll costs, business supplies, business equipment and other business expenses such as rent and utilities.
The bill set aside $225 million for the program.
The third, the $50 million “Coronavirus Mitigation Stipend” program, will provide reimbursement of up to $500,000 for expenses directly related to the coronavirus, such as the purchase of special equipment or additional cleaning to deal with the disease.
Another bill approved would set aside $15 million to reimburse landlords for any losses they may have experienced because tenants were unable to pay their rents during the pandemic.
The program is one Gordon proposed to discourage the eviction of tenants who may have lost their jobs or had their pay cut during the pandemic. The program will reimburse landlords who have not evicted their tenants for non-payment.
The same measure also clears the way for those infected by coronavirus to receive workers’ compensation payments if the company they work for participates in the program. The premiums of employers will not be raised if an employee submits a claim for coronavirus.
Under another section of the bill, businesses that adhered to the health recommendations of state and local officials during the pandemic will be immune from lawsuits by anyone claiming they were infected with COVID-19 through the actions of that business.
The third measure approved provides Gordon with the actual authority to spend the federal funds, up to $450 million immediately, another $400 million on July 15 and another $400 million on Sept. 15.
In addition to the spending instructions spelled out in the legislation, Gordon is to use the money to meet four priorities: Programs to reimburse entities for COVID-19 expenses; relief aid to state and local programs to support businesses, families and individuals; economic development projects designed to boost employment, and the replacement of lost revenue to public entities caused by the pandemic.