Wyoming's Strategy to Survive, Drive and Thrive
Wyoming has been through historic challenges the last two years, and during this time Governor Mark Gordon has been planning the state's recovery. The governor understood that there were actions the government needed to take immediately to stop additional negative impacts from the global pandemic. At the same time, he recognized that the state would have an opportunity to tackle problems long-term if it was strategic with its own funds and with funds made available through additional federal stimulus bills.
When Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (Rescue Plan or ARPA) into law, the governor was ready to deploy his planning efforts. The governor convened a group he called the Strike Team to create a strategy to best maximize the COVID-19-related federal funds in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term. He directed the Strike Team to determine what the state needed to do to survive, and what could be done to better drive to a future where all of Wyoming can thrive.
In addition, the governor identified criteria by which he believes the state should evaluate projects eligible for American Rescue Plan Act funding. The governor believes each project should:
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; and
Benefit a wide group of citizens.
The governor asked the full Strike Team to continue to assist him with the planning and study, as well as the evaluation of solutions, required in the Drive and Thrive phases. That led to the proposals that are outlined here on this website and available for public comment. These are the proposals that have been developed to date. The State Legislature can also consider other ideas when it meets in February.
From the outset of the planning process, the governor voiced his desire to work with the Wyoming Legislature to best deploy federal funds made available to the state. This mirrored the process for CARES Act funding. Thus, the timeframe of planning efforts largely aligns with the work of the Legislature. The Survive phase has been on-going and will continue through the 2022 Legislative Session. The Drive phase has been ongoing in 2021. Most of the planning and study efforts are culminating with recommendations the Governor will make to the Legislature in December 2021. Some areas identified for the Drive phase will require additional time and are expected to continue throughout 2022. The Thrive phase encompasses actions with long-term benefit.
The American Rescue Plan requires that all funds be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by 2026.
Comments on these proposals can continue through the Legislative session, which starts February 14, 2022.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion relief and stimulus package to support the nation's recovery from the many negative impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Rescue Plan establishes the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund which provide billions of dollars in aid to states and local governments. The State of Wyoming, through the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, expects to receive $1.68 billion. Wyoming counties and cities, through the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, expect to receive $182 million.
This federal act does have many requirements and directs funding to be used for only allowable projects. However, there are other funds available because of this federal act and some of them could be used for the proposals outlined here with Legislative approval.
In addition to the Fiscal Recovery Funds, the State of Wyoming expects to receive up to $109 million from the Capital Projects Fund for critical projects tied to connectivity. The Rescue Plan also provides funds for education: $303 million to K-12 school districts and $44 million to higher education. Further, the Rescue Plan provides millions of dollars to Wyoming state agencies directly combating the pandemic (the Wyoming Department of Health) and the negative impacts of the pandemic - housing insecurity, child care fragility, food insecurity etc. (Department of Family Services) among others.
The Rescue Plan also provides millions of dollars to Wyoming citizens, businesses, and other entities outside of government through federal relief and stimulus programs, direct payments, tax credits, and benefits/ services.
To evaluate projects eligible for funding through the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, we must consider whether the projects could be funded with other available funds or whether there is access to other available funds. This will allow the state to maximize the benefits it receives from each different funding source.