By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A state representative told a Cheyenne radio station over the weekend that the Wyoming Legislature’s special session will likely take place in mid-July.
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, spoke with KGAB over the weekend and told host Doug Randall that he expected the latest legislative special session to convene July 12 and run for one week. Zwonitzer said all of the state’s legislators have been contacted and told to block out that particular week.
The Legislature is to use the session to discuss the appropriation and distribution of federal coronavirus relief funds.
“It’s about $1.3 billion coming in for municipalities, education, rental assistance, all types of things,” Zwonitzer said during his interview.
Legislative Service Office spokesman Ryan Frost could not confirm the dates of the ses to Cowboy State Daily on Monday, but said the week was being eyed as a possibility for the special session.
Last month, Gov. Mark Gordon announced a program for rental assistance in the state that would use $200 million in federal funding to cover rent and utility costs for Wyomingites struggling financially due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
His office also announced last month that the state was expected to receive around $1.2 billion in federal funding, close to Zwonitzer’s own estimate for the special session.
Gordon wanted to identify needs and opportunities that could be addressed with the COVID funds, as well as develop a budget to optimize the distribution.
“Wyoming will survive the impacts of COVID, drive through our period of recovery and set up the conditions for us to thrive in the long-term,” he said. “It is imperative to emphasize long-term benefits because this funding has increased the debt for future generations.”
He stressed collaboration between the Legislature and the executive branch will be required to maximize the benefits of these resources for the people of Wyoming.
“I am committed to working with the Legislature to ensure that we use the funds effectively and responsibly, and that we seek to develop big ideas that will have significant and long-lasting impacts” Gordon said. “Wyoming won’t see these funds for some time, allowing us to develop a plan to ensure these dollars benefit citizens for years to come.”
The American Rescue Plan included $350 billion in aid to states and local governments.
Guidance from the federal government on the use of the funds is expected to be issued sometime this month, but unlike the federal CARES Act funding distributed last year, Wyoming will have nearly four years to spend the money.
The governor wants to focus on three areas in identifying the most significant problems Wyoming is facing due to this pandemic and then use the federal money to address the highest priorities within those areas. The areas are:
- Health and Social Services
- Education and Workforce
- Economic Diversity and Economic Development