By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming will see the largest financial boost of all the states receiving federal coronavirus assistance, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts.
According to the report issued Monday, Wyoming is set to receive $1.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, which amounts to more than one-fifth — 22.7% — of its total spending in 2020. South Dakota will receive the second-largest boost, at 20.1%, the report said.
States that were having a hard time paying expenses prior to the pandemic will see the greatest relief from the program, the report said, but it added states that entered the pandemic in relatively good financial positions will also be helped.
“ARPA provides critical breathing room that was rare in the slimmed-down budgets that lingered after the Great Recession, which started at the end of 2007,” it said. “For states that entered the pandemic-driven downturn with robust reserves or otherwise escaped significant budget squeezes, the aid offers even more: an unexpected one-time investment opportunity.
The report also noted that Wyoming has seen multiple rounds of budget cuts within the last year, including the elimination of 324 state positions earlier this year.
Wyoming has received $534 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to date, but another $534 million is anticipated to come sometime next year. The state also has until Dec. 31, 2024 to obligate the ARPA money and until Dec. 31, 2026 to spend it.
Gov. Mark Gordon decided earlier this month that there would be no special session this summer to determine how these federal funds would be spent. Instead, he has assembled a team to better identify what the state needs to do to survive and what can be done to better drive to a future where all of Wyoming can thrive.
Gordon anticipated directing a fraction of the federal funds already provided to the state to address emergency funding needs this year. He also noted that the federal money will not be used this year to reduce the state’s spending on schools and local governments.
For the use of the remainder of the federal funds, Gordon identified the following enduring funding criteria:
- Have a long-term impact or a return on investment
- Not replenish budget cuts unless the replenishment can be sustained
- Be sustainable and not add to the State’s ongoing financial responsibilities
- Support stimulus over relief
- Where possible, leverage the dollars through matching or buy-in programs
- Create capacity for the future
- Benefit a wide group of citizens
According to the Pew report, Wisconsin is receiving the smallest boost compared to its spending, at 4.9%.