Special Session Sets Framework For Coronavirus Aid, Second Session Planned For Budget


CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – The Wyoming Legislature finalized details of a wide-ranging and historic 3-bill spending plan for the state’s $1.25 billion dollar share of the federal coronavirus aid package Saturday afternoon, laying the groundwork for a future special session late next month.

While no concrete date has been set for next month’s special session, House Speaker Steve Harshman of Casper said it will likely take place over five days starting June 29

The deal passed Saturday includes more than $300 million in grants available June 1 for locally-owned and operated small businesses and nonprofits across the state who were excluded from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and closed or experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19 limits.

There’s also $175 million in help to local governments; an eviction avoidance program under the Wyoming Community Development Authority, millions of dollars in funding for critical medical infrastructure around the state, and a substantial boost for various capital construction programs, particularly rural hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The package makes changes to the state’s unemployment insurance program, including exempting employer accounts for claims directly tied to the impacts of the COVID-19 rules.

Several parts of the spending package are subject to veto by Governor Mark Gordon, who has not indicated if he will.

Legislative leaders kept the focus of the package relatively narrow for fast action, but the final version was expanded significantly from the version they’d debated leading into the session as many lawmakers said they want to get as much of the federal money as possible out before the end of the year.

Some proposals that failed to get into the package are expected to return during the second special session, including one giving the governor significant leeway to make unilateral reductions in education spending.

The second session faces the much bigger problem of unprecedented declines in state revenues in the middle of an election year, which would result proposals for new taxes and for slashing of hundreds of millions of dollars in spending just years after some of the deepest budget cuts in state history.