By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Requests for more than $100 million in coronavirus relief for businesses were received in the first four hours after applications began being accepted for the latest relief programs, state officials said Wednesday.
Gov. Mark Gordon and Josh Dorrell, chief executive officer for the Wyoming Business Council, said during a news conference Wednesday the demand for the Business Relief Fund and Business Mitigation Fund has been significant.
“There has been incredible demand for this funding,” Gordon said.
The “Business Interruption Fund,” the first of three relief programs funded with federal coronavirus relief money, has wrapped up after seeing almost $100 million distributed to more than 4,000 small Wyoming businesses that lost money due to health restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The other two programs, the Relief Fund and Mitigation Fund, launched this week with $225 million available for distribution.
The Relief Fund is designed to reimburse larger businesses and nonprofit entities for losses they saw because of public health orders and because of coronavirus-related expenses.
The Mitigation Fund will reimburse companies that have seen direct expenses related to the coronavirus, such as extra costs for sanitizing businesses.
The programs are all paid for with the $1.25 billion the state received from the federal government for coronavirus relief.
Gordon said as of Wednesday, the state had allocated more than $710 million on items such as the relief programs, a new scholarship program aimed at people who are unemployed or underemployed because of the coronavirus and funding to help the University of Wyoming reopen its doors.
He added the state has spent almost all of the money it received from the federal government and said the state has been cautious in handing out the funds to avoid problems with the rules set by Congress for use of the money.
“We can do this, do it right, do it expeditiously and do it in a way that my grandson doesn’t have to pay it back,” he said. “If we get audited and the federal government has to claw it back, they will garnish our royalties, our (Payments in Lieu of Taxes). They’ll get their pound of flesh. I look at it as possible debts the state will have to take on and I hate debt.”