By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon has broken the framework of spending federal coronavirus-related funds into two categories: survive and drive.
Gordon wants to ensure the federal funds are spent in a strategic manner in order to maximize benefits to the state.
“We have the opportunity to use these funds to help shape the Wyoming of the future and make our state an even more desirable place to live, work and visit,” Gordon said. “We have identified some critical areas where we should focus our efforts, and which will maximize the opportunity that we have before us. Since it is our great-grandchildren who will be paying for this government funding, it is that generation that deserves to benefit from it.”
In the “survive” phase, several immediate problems were identified that will be addressed with the remaining CARES Act dollars or other available federal funds, which include funding to address increased needs for mental health and substance abuse services; tax relief for businesses; identifying underserved areas needing improved broadband connectivity; expanding camping at Wyoming State Parks to address overcrowding and increasing employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry through the Energy Rebound program.
In the “drive” phase, several goals were identified for further study and planning. These included:
- Strengthen Wyoming’s economy by activating new economic sectors and creating new jobs, as well as identifying ways to add value to Wyoming’s current businesses and core industries.
- Create better alignment among workforce, economic development, and educational opportunities to achieve balance between available workforce and available employment opportunities.
- Expand outdoor recreation and enhance wildlife populations.
- Focused efforts to retain and attract working families and young adults to permanently live and raise families in Wyoming.
- Promote and enhance Wyoming food supply, distribution, and markets.
- Identify and complete necessary and beneficial infrastructure projects.
Gordon will continue working with his cabinet, policy staff and the strike team on planning and study efforts for each of the second phase’s goals.
Some areas are so complex and robust that the study/planning period may last well into next year.
In addition to this plan, the governor asked the Wyoming Department of Health to prepare its plan for continued COVID-19 response.
Gordon asked a team of key individuals to develop this strategy and they worked with the governor’s policy team, cabinet, and many stakeholders to develop a plan to best maximize the COVID-19-related federal funds in the near-term, mid-term and long-term.