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Gordon Unveils Grant Program For Nonprofits Impacted By COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon unveiled a new program on Tuesday that would provide grant funding to nonprofit organizations that have provided public assistance or seen a decline in donations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor has allocated more than $12.1 million in CARES Act funding for the Community Charitable Relief Program to Wyoming counties and tribal governments.

All decisions on funding will be made at the local level, with county commissioners and tribal governments in charge of distributing the grant funds to local entities.

With the new Congressional aid package extending the deadline states have to use CARES Act dollars, counties and tribes have until March 1 to distribute the grant funding. However, Gordon is urging local governments to act quickly to ensure the funds reach organizations in need.

“No one can say this has been an easy year. There are so many needs that have been highlighted by the challenge of this virus and all that accompanied it,” Gordon said. “Never has the work of charitable organizations been more important and they have shouldered additional responsibilities in so many ways. This program will give county and tribal governments the ability to provide some more support to those organizations that they know have served the public and been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.”

Gordon expressed his appreciation to state House Speaker Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, for his leadership in developing this program.

Harshman said that there is much work to be done around the state.

“There have been so many acts of kindness in all of our neighborhoods and it is so heartening to know how much Wyoming people really care and how generous we are,” Harshman said. “With that I am pleased to see this program come to a group of important organizations that were somewhat overlooked in the CARES funding process. These organizations do the Lord’s work and there is no better time to help and support those who help and support so many others.”

The governor also thanked incoming Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper and incoming Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, for their support of the program.

“I commend the governor for coordinating this work through the state’s county commissions,” Dockstader. “They understand the needs of their individual charities.”

Jim Willox, Converse County Commissioner and president of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association said the program provides commissioners an opportunity to direct much-needed relief to nonprofit organizations in their communities.

“The opportunity for commissioners to work closely with Governor Gordon to get money into the hands of those organizations meeting the growing needs of people in our communities is appreciated,” Willox said. “This will be welcome relief for many of our neighbors as we close a difficult year.”

Wyoming nonprofit organizations are encouraged to contact county commissioners or the tribal business council in their service area for additional details on the grant process.

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Gordon And Lummis Say Ban on Oil and Gas Leasing Would Threaten Wyoming Economy

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Governor Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen.-elect Cynthia Lummis on Tuesday both shared their concerns over a possible federal ban on oil and gas leasing.

Gordon, in a press conference, released a study that said the state could lose more than $300 million a year in tax revenue if a ban were enacted.

“A federal leasing ban would be a serious threat to our state’s economy,” Gordon said. “The revenue challenges that we currently face would be further exacerbated by any misguided federal policies that unfairly target states with large swaths of federal land.”

Lummis sounded a higher-level alarm, calling a ban “catastrophic” for Wyoming both in terms of revenue and jobs and pledged to fight against it.

“This highlights why I started this week in Georgia,” Lummis said.
“If we lose control of the Senate, stopping horrible actions like a federal drilling ban become extremely difficult.”

In order for the Republican Party to keep control of the United States Senate, both Republican candidates need to win their respective races in Georgia’s January runoff.

During his campaign for the White House, Joe Biden pledged to halt oil and gas leasing on federal land, along with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

According to the study referenced by Gordon and commissioned by Wyoming’s Legislature, the value of lost production in Wyoming under a federal leasing moratorium during the first five years would average $872 million.

That translates to more than $300 million per year in lost tax revenue annually, which includes severance tax, ad-valorem tax , federal royalties and lease bonus payments.

Over 15 years that revenue loss would increase to $1.7 billion. In the event of a drilling ban, the loss to Wyoming’s revenues would increase to $345 million per year, increasing to $1.8 billion over 15 years.

The study estimates the investment and production losses from policies that restrict oil and gas development on federal lands in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, California and Alaska. Those policies include either a moratorium on all new federal leases or an outright drilling ban on all onshore federal lands.

The study estimates investment losses over the 8 states and 20 years to be in excess of $300 billion for either the leasing or drilling ban. The tax losses to the states exceed $110 billion. The overall loss of economic growth is over $600 billion.

Funding for the study came from a one-time appropriation by the Wyoming Legislature during the 2020 budget session.

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Gordon Says No To Texas Supreme Court Lawsuit

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Governor Mark Gordon has issued the following statement addressing Wyoming’s involvement in a lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

“I strongly support the Supreme Court hearing the Constitutional issue of the Electors Clause raised by Texas in their petition. President Trump has the right to bring electoral issues for resolution in the US judicial system.

“I, along with Wyoming voters, overwhelmingly supported President Trump through our electoral process.

“As Governor, my sworn duty is to protect the right of Wyoming citizens to vote. I also agree that States must follow laws passed by their legislature concerning elections.

“I could not be more proud of Wyoming’s electoral process, both in terms of security and the ability for Wyomingites to cast their vote.

“We were not informed nor asked by Texas to consider joining their suit. The State of Texas’s filing was more than 150 pages and there was inadequate time to properly consider the ramifications of joining the motion specifically, or to thoughtfully consider joining the supporting states’ brief before it was filed.

“I asked the Attorney General to look into the case and consider possible actions the State of Wyoming might take.

“General Hill did this, and after significant consideration we believe that the case could have unintended consequences relating to a constitutional principle that the State of Wyoming holds dear – that States are sovereign, free to govern themselves.

“Should the Supreme Court grant Texas’s motion, we will weigh in a manner that is suitable and appropriate for the issues raised. As always, I will make sure Wyoming’s interests are protected.”

Statement from Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan:

“I support the State of Texas in its quest to ensure that elections are conducted in accordance with the constitution and state law. Our judiciary is the proper place to raise these issues.”

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Gordon to Announce COVID Relief Program For Bars, Restaurants Which Have to Close at 10pm

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon, the Wyoming Business Council and the Wyoming Department of Health are working together to quickly roll out a relief program for businesses that now have reduced hours of operation due to the newest health orders passed this week.

The program will use federal CARES Act dollars to reimburse restaurants and bars for income lost during the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the times they are required to be closed.

“I want to thank everyone for joining together to protect their communities and also to support local businesses,” Gordon said. “We hope to have final details available this week and to start taking applications for relief funding for business owners who are helping to save lives by reducing their hours.”

Gordon has often spoken of the importance of keeping businesses open, and with hours reduced for the next several weeks, he said the support provided by the assistance program is is critical.

The Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming State Liquor Association are helping to notify their members about the opportunity.

With Congress still debating an emergency stimulus package, the timing of the program will depend on availability of relief funding. Additional federal stimulus funds or an extension of the Dec. 30 CARES Act deadline could allow additional dollars to be directed towards this program.

“I have been working with legislative leaders so we can quickly change state laws if Congress does act and provides new relief to the states. I appreciate their efforts to prepare and be ready to act quickly,” Gordon said.

The Wyoming Business Council plans to release additional information about the program later this week. The WLRA and WSLA will also be distributing this information to their members as soon as it becomes available.

“We appreciate the Governor’s efforts to help offset the financial impacts some of our members will experience, and we thank him for working with industry on keeping our businesses and employees whole,” Mike Moser, Executive Director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, said.

“This relief program is welcome news and an opportunity for the Wyoming hospitality industry to address lost revenues,” Chris Brown, Executive Director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, said.  

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Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon Tests Positive For COVID-19; Gov Gordon Recovered

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In a very short press release, Gov. Mark Gordon’s office announced on Thursday that First Lady Jennie Gordon has tested positive for COVID-19.

The one paragraph announcement also mentioned that Gov. Gordon has “recovered” from the illness and is “nearly symptom-free.”

“They have been in quarantine together since November 20th. The First Lady is only experiencing minor symptoms at this time,” the release said.

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‘Threatened’ Status For Tree Concerning, Gordon Says

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is expressing concern about a federal proposal to list a tree in Wyoming as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

While the listing of the whitebark pine would not impose any restrictions on activities on private property in Wyoming, the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek the “threatened” status for the tree is worrisome, Gordon said in a news release Wednesday.

“Any listing under the ESA is concerning,” he said. “Wyoming always seeks to avoid the need for listing and will remain committed to working with our federal partners to approach species conversation in a pragmatic manner.”

The whitebark pine, a high-elevation tree, is threatened by a fungal disease called white pine blister rust. The Fish and Wildlife Service did not find that any human activities are a threat to the tree.

The proposed “threatened” listing would not restrict activities such as grazing and logging and does not propose any critical habitat designations, Gordon said.

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Gordon’s Office Closed Tuesday After COVID Exposure

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark’s Gordon’s office was forced to close Tuesday due to one of his staff members testing positive for the coronavirus.

The office was to be thoroughly cleaned on Tuesday to prepare for reopening on Wednesday.

Staff members considered close contacts of the employee who tested positive have been notified and may have to quarantine, according to a release from the office. Gordon isn’t required to quarantine, but is working remotely out an abundance of caution, it said.

Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily that he didn’t know the exact number of people who were exposed to the virus.

“Governor’s office staff are telecommuting on a rotating basis, so there are only a handful of people in the office every day and I don’t know who of those may have been in close contact with this individual,” he said in an email. “Those who are in the office are wearing face coverings at all time when they are not in their private offices.”

He added that the one-day closure is per state policy, which requires a 24-hour closure and deep cleaning when a confirmed positive individual has worked in a state office.

Pearlman affirmed the office would reopen on Wednesday so someone would be available to answer phones and receive deliveries.

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Wyoming Hospital Association Director Says Statewide Mask Mandate Important For Curbing COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A statewide mask mandate remains an important part of preventing the spread of coronavirus, although Gov. Mark Gordon declined to issue such an order, according to the director of the Wyoming Hospital Association.

In an email to Cowboy State Daily, WHA Director Eric Boley reiterated that the organization still feels masks are “super important to bending the curve and curbing the outbreak.”

“It is a simple thing that allows us to help ourselves and also shows that we want to help others,” Boley said to Cowboy State Daily. “There are many counties that will not impose a mask mandate on their own and we feel that a statewide mandate is the only way to ensure that there is a directive across the entire state.”

Earlier this month, the WHA, the Wyoming Medical Society and the state’s county health officers signed a letter to Gordon, asking him to implement a statewide mask mandate.

Gordon has hesitated to do so, and avoided doing just that in his recent health orders, which limited the number of people in crowds, both in and outside.

Since Gordon hasn’t passed a statewide order, many counties have decided to do it themselves, with counties like Teton, Laramie, Carbon Sublette passing mandates in recent weeks.

‘We realize enforcement may be difficult but in an attempt to help keep businesses open, to keep people safer and healthier and to ease the strain on our healthcare providers and facilities we would really like to see a statewide directive,” Boley said.

A call placed to the Wyoming Medical Society wasn’t answered, and the group’s spokeswoman was out of the office until Monday.

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Gordon Issues New Health Orders Reducing Crowd Sizes

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has issued the newest health orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, reducing allowable crowd sizes at both inside and outside gatherings.

Gordon said the move will ease the pressure on the state’s health care system and preserve the viability of the state’s economy.

The new health orders, which take effect Monday, will not require the closure of any businesses. The orders will limit inside and outdoor gatherings to no more than 25 people without restrictions.

“We have said from the start that data would drive our approach,” Gordon said. “With this spike, we must respond to these new conditions. We have seen that larger gatherings are playing a role in the spread of this disease.”

If physical distancing measures are employed, gatherings for indoor events are limited to 25% of venue capacity with a maximum of 100 people. 

Gatherings for outdoor events are limited to 50% of venue capacity with a maximum of 250 people. Faith-based gatherings are exempt. 

Church services, funeral homes, parades and other specified businesses are also exempt from the gathering limits listed in the new orders. There are no changes to operations of K-12 Schools, child care facilities, restaurants and performance spaces.

“These measures are intended to assist our healthcare system in meeting unprecedented demands for services, assure that in-classroom education can continue, and importantly keep Wyoming’s people working and her businesses open,” Gordon said. “We have reached out extensively to our business community across the state and will continue to do so. We heard a clear message from them that they want to work cooperatively to ensure our economy, workforce and general public are healthy.”

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the governor is also asking Wyoming residents to celebrate safely.

“Thanksgiving is a special day for families. This virus is insidious and it strikes even at family gatherings where we are tempted to let our guard down,” he said. “Jennie and I encourage families to be careful this Thanksgiving and to keep gatherings smaller to protect their loved ones. We also wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.”

The new orders remain in effect until Dec. 15 and may be revised earlier if needed.

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Gordon Providing Resources For Wyoming Hospitals Due To COVID Surge

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is providing additional support to hospitals across Wyoming in response to skyrocketing coronavirus cases all over the state.

The state will receive resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Wyoming National Guard and through traveling medical staff contracted using CARES Act funds he directed to the Wyoming Hospital Association.

“I want to thank President Trump and his administration for providing much-needed resources to Wyoming to deal with the serious strain COVID-19 has put on our healthcare system,” Gordon said. “We have had to call upon resources from outside the state to help deal with this surge in hospitalizations. Many thanks to the National Guard for answering our call to help in our hospitals. I also want to express my deepest gratitude to our frontline healthcare workers. Help is on the way.”

Hospitalizations are at record levels and have been increasing rapidly over the last several weeks.

There are also several Wyoming hospitals that have expanded capacity to meet the influx of coronavirus patients. Right now several hospitals are also at capacity for ICU beds.

Two Health and Medical Task Force (HMTF) teams from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System will deploy to Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center to help medical providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each 15-member team includes physicians and nurses who will support hospitals in Campbell and Laramie counties for two weeks. The communities were selected based on where the immediate need was greatest.

The Wyoming National Guard will also be providing support to hospitals by augmenting hospital staff. Guard members will be assisting with activities such as delivering meals and other activities to free up medical staff.

There will be 10 guard members assigned to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Cheyenne who will be deployed for 30 days unless extended upon request.

Assistance with non-medical tasks helps the hospitals focus their medical resources on tasks where they can have the most impact.

“Our Guardsmen are poised to assist when the state is in a time of increased need,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Porter, adjutant general for the Wyoming National Guard. “Our soldiers and airmen are always ready to aid our neighbors and affected communities and partner with other agencies.”

Traveling medical staff has also begun to arrive in Wyoming to assist with the state’s coronavirus response.

Gordon has allocated $10 million in CARES Act funding to the Wyoming Hospital Association to coordinate this previously announced effort. As many as 50 additional personnel are expected to be deployed throughout the state by the end of the week to provide staffing relief and ease the burden on hospital resources.

“This much-needed assistance came together with the coordination of several agencies,” Lynn Budd, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security Director said. “The result is a direct validation of the teamwork that is typical of Wyoming.”

As a part of the WDH efforts to support Wyoming hospital capacity, the department has been in contact on an ongoing basis with Wyoming hospitals to discuss hospital capacity and surge plans.

“Consistently we have been informed by hospitals that availability of medical personnel, specifically nurses, is their largest concern,” said Dirk Dijkstal, Health Readiness and Response Section chief with WDH.

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