By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
With the deadline nearing for Wyoming businesses and nonprofit organizations to apply for federal funds to offset coronavirus losses, the state had already paid out more than $120 million for assistance through the two of its programs still running, according to state figures.
Numbers posted on the WyOpen.gov/wbc website showed that as of Sept. 10, the state had distributed $123.4 million through its coronavirus business relief and mitigation programs.
The numbers were posted as the state neared its deadline of Tuesday for businesses and nonprofits to apply for the money made available through the federal coronavirus relief program.
The Legislature, during a special session in May, approved three programs to distribute $325 million to Wyoming businesses affected by the coronavirus and related business shutdowns.
The first program, the Coronavirus Interruption Stipend, ended on July 2 after paying out $98.7 million to almost 4,000 businesses. Each business could receive up to $50,000 as relief for losses suffered because of business interruptions caused by public health orders adopted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Another $39.3 million has been distributed through a program designed to help businesses forced to close by the public health orders that may have been unable to apply for relief through the first Coronavirus Interruption Stipend program or that had losses exceeding what they received through the interruption stipend program.
One of the other two programs still running, the Coronavirus Business Relief Stipend, makes up to $300,000 available to cover coronavirus-related losses.
The Wyoming Business Council, in a news release, said as of Friday, 2,480 businesses had applied for $182.7 million from the relief fund.
The second program, the Coronavirus Mitigation Stipend, makes up to $500,000 available to compensate businesses for expenses directly related to coronavirus, such as the purchase of personal protection equipment and the costs of extra sanitization measures.
As of Friday, 629 applicants had requested $28.3 million from the mitigation stipend program, the WBC said.
“The demand for the relief fund is very close to exceeding available dollars, while the mitigation fund requests have slowed to a trickle, potentially leaving millions of unused dollars,” said Josh Dorrell, the WBC’s chief executive officer. “We have decided to close applications in order to reallocate leftover funds to best serve the ongoing needs of Wyoming businesses later in the year.”
The state received $1.25 billion as its share of the federal coronavirus relief program. Under terms of the program, the money must be spent by the end of the year.
Gov. Mark Gordon said last week the state has spent about $829 million and is looking at other programs to provide assistance using the money, including funding for Internet service improvement in Wyoming’s rural areas, sending some of the money to local governments and providing funding to help meat processing companies in Wyoming expand their operations.