Even though we’ll be talking Special Session at the inaugural People’s Review: LIVE! on Thursday, we wanted to be sure you had a little bit of information about what happened at the unprecedented virtual Special Session over the weekend.
Why did they have a special session?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted March 27, 2020 (H.R. 748) appropriated $1.25B to Wyoming. Those funds are designated to help the people of Wyoming recover from the impacts of coronavirus.
Even though the Governor makes policy and the Legislature makes appropriations, Treasury guidance, an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General, Bridget Hill, and the “Crank Memo” all gave Governor Gordon the authority to appropriate the funds to existing programs.
Nonetheless, the Governor called the Legislature into Special Session May 15 & 16, in part, as a show of good faith and cooperative governance (other states are facing some pretty contentious situations between branches right now).
These are the three bills they passed:
HB1001 Emergency/SF1001 appropriation-COVID-19 funds (Mgmt Council)
What It Does: Establishes guidelines for what CARES Act funding can be used for and establishes three tranches of appropriations to those programs over the next year: $450m immediately, $400m on July 15, and the rest on Sept. 15. The bill covers four chief priorities, including:
- COVID-19 emergency response (i.e. money needed to respond to the direct impacts of the pandemic.)
- Relief aid (Payments to new or existing state and local programs to support businesses, families and individuals who have been economically impacted by the public health crisis.)
- Economic development projects, must be SLIB approved
- Replacement of lost revenue for public entities, must be SLIB approved
The legislation would also give the Legislature permission to chase after additional legislation in future special sessions to fulfill these obligations and allows the governor unilateral authority to set up any new programs necessary to distribute these funds.
All funding would be subject to reporting requirements established by the governor.
Fiscal Note: $1.25 billion.
HB1002/SF1002 Emergency government action-COVID-19 (Mgmt Council)
What It Does: Sets up worker’s compensation guidelines for employers whose workers may contract COVID-19 while on the job, stands up an eviction avoidance program under the Wyoming Community Development Authority. The governor will also have authority to allow businesses to not have to dip into their unemployment insurance accounts if layoffs or furloughs were deemed to be unavoidable due to COVID.
What It Does: Sets up a program under the Wyoming Business Council to address COVID-related impacts for businesses that had previously been excluded from the federal paycheck protection act. Priority to Wyoming businesses with 100 employees or fewer. Detailed rules, subject to application and approval by the WBC. Includes:
- $50 million is for the Wyoming business interruption stipend program
- $225 million is for the coronavirus business relief loan program (preference to 100 or fewer employees, $300,000 cap, 0 percent loan disbursed through a community banking program).
- $50 million is for the coronavirus mitigation stipend program. ($500,000 cap, no employee ceiling).
Fiscal note: The $325 million comes out of the $450 million appropriated in the first bill.