CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and state lawmakers are preparing to distribute $2.7 billion in pandemic relief after the U.S. Treasury Department released guidelines about President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief package.
Sisolak, a Democrat, said that he had been working with legislative leaders for weeks to plan how to allocate the funds and hoped to direct the pandemic aid to be spent to stimulate “a strong recovery with long lasting impacts.”
"This will be one of the largest infusions of federal dollars into Nevada in history," he said in a statement on Monday.
Nevada will receive $2.7 billion in direct aid, which it is permitted to use on public health, to backfill some revenue shortfalls and for relief programs for businesses and at-risk populations. In addition to the direct aid, the state expects to receive billions more in funds specifically designated for local governments, schools and other infrastructure.
The governor told reporters last week that he saw the funds as an opportunity to invest in Nevada’s future rather than merely short-term stimulus. He said he and legislative leaders agreed in principle that the funds should be used — first and foremost — to backfill revenue loss, replenish the state’s rainy day fund and update decades-old infrastructure like the unemployment system, which has been pushed to its limits by an unprecedented amount of claims filed throughout the pandemic.
Along with better-than-anticipated tax revenue projections, the funding will allow lawmakers to avoid making the painful cuts many anticipated in February at the start of the legislative session.
It could also provoke heated debates among interest groups and lobbyists vying for a share of the funds to bankroll projects and programs that the state historically did not have the ability to finance.
State and local governments will have broader flexibility in how to spend the relief dollars than they did in prior packages. Questions about allocation are likely to revive battles over spending — for example, whether to direct funds to one-time expenses or health-related programs with costs that will outlast the pandemic.
The $2.7 billion is more than half of Nevada's annual general fund spending and will be delivered to states with high unemployment rates like Nevada in one payment. Lawmakers are expected to divvy it up in a yet-to-be-announced special legislative session to be held after their regular session concludes at the end of the month. Sisolak has not said whether he intends to call a special session.
This version corrects that states like Nevada where the pandemic caused unemployment to increase will receive relief funds in one payment, not two. States where unemployment has not increased by more than 2% since the start of the pandemic.
Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.