Albany County is experiencing a significant economic downturn during this difficult period of COVID-19. I have been approached by several individuals and businesses regarding the three bills that were passed in the Wyoming Legislature’s Special Session and how it could impact them or their business. The Special Session bills are all designed to benefit Wyoming citizens and businesses through the appropriate allocation of the federal funds through the CARES act that congress passed. Wyoming received approximately $1.25 billion.
The first bill, SF1001, outlined general uses of the funds with $450 million available immediately with an additional $400 million available by July 15 and the balance by September. The bill outlines how expenses incurred by cities, towns, counties for COVID-19 expenses can be paid. It also outlines how grants can be issued for Wyoming health care providers and health care facilities to respond to public health emergencies. It provides for potential construction expenses to improve the state’s mental health services. Another provision is for funds to improve food insecurity.
The second bill provides aid for landlords, employees and employers. Through the enactment of this bill, landlords who are receiving less than 25% of rent payments and have unemployed tenants due to COVID-19 will be encouraged to hold off on evictions by way of monetary compensation. The Wyoming Community Development Authority will manage this program, thus, that is the organization that should be contacted if a landlord is about to evict. The next provision indicated that employees may file a claim under the worker’s compensation program if they have contracted COVID-19 since it is considered an injury. However, this bill stipulates that these claims are not to be included in the employer’s experience rating. It also provides relief to employers through the Department of Workforce Services to grant a worker’s compensation premium credit and which can be used through June 2021.
The third bill, HB1004, which I worked directly on, is to provide funds to businesses. I am on the Minerals and Economic Development Committee as is Senator Rothfuss and we worked on this bill before the Special Session. This bill is designed to provide financial relief to Wyoming businesses that were impacted by COVID-19. The bill has three sections of relief. The first is called the Wyoming Business Interruption Stipend Program and reimburses businesses with 50 or less full-time employees for expenses caused by required closures. This program provides each eligible business with a base of $20,000 stipend (no repayment required) plus an additional $2,000 for each full-time employee up to a total maximum of $50,000. Those businesses that did not receive funds under the Paycheck Protection Program will be given preference but those receiving PPP will not be excluded. This program will be administered by the Wyoming Business Council and will only require a one-page application and thus easy to apply for. It is expected that this program may be available by June 1, 2020. Contact WBC for details.
The second program under this bill is known as the Coronavirus Business Relief Stipend Program. The stipends up to $300,000 are available under this program for independently owned and operated Wyoming businesses with 100 or less full-time employees, (although WBC has some flexibility in the employee numbers.) This program requires a more complicated application in that the business must demonstrate the expenses they have incurred due to COVID-19.
The third program is typically for larger businesses and is to reimburse businesses for expenses related to COVID-19 including safety equipment, training to protect health and safety of employees, cleaning and sanitizing, and hiring additional employees to meet public health guidelines. Stipends are limited under this program to a maximum of $500,000 and again will be administered by WBC.
This is just a quick summary of these bills, for more detail refer to the State of Wyoming web site, which can be found at https://www.wyoleg.gov/, and click on “2020 Special Session Bills” under the “Legislation” heading. You can then look for the following bills: SF1001, SF1002 and HB1004.
Please feel free to contact me if I can help.
Dan Furphy is a state representative for House District 14. He is a retired banker, a former Laramie City Council member and former CEO of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.