CHEYENNE – The city of Cheyenne and Laramie County are set to receive a total of $30.7 million in relief funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was passed in March as a way to help the U.S. economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both municipalities should receive the first half of the funding toward the middle of May, and the spending requirements for those funds have changed since the first federal CARES Act program, so the Cheyenne City Council and Laramie County Board of Commissioners will have a few options for how to use the money.
This time around, City Treasurer Robin Lockman said, “The American Rescue Plan for municipalities and local governments has a provision that they will reimburse us for revenue reduction resulting from COVID-19.”
The city has been allocated $11.7 million, and according to Lockman’s estimates for lost revenue in 2020, about $1.7 million of that will be used to make up for those COVID-19 losses. From 2019, the city’s general fund saw an $875,000 decline, and the Cheyenne Civic Center and Ice and Events Center saw a decrease of $733,000 and $122,000, respectively.
On the other hand, the county did not see any revenue losses during 2020 due to a strong performance in sales tax revenue, County Commission Chairman Gunnar Malm said. However, the county does plan to hold onto a portion of the $19 million in allocated Rescue Plan funds in anticipation of revenue losses from the decline in the oil and gas industry.
Both scenarios leave a large chunk of change for the city and county to spend in the other acceptable categories.
One of the allowed uses by the federal government is to provide premium pay for essential workers, which Lockman said is up to $13 an hour for work during the pandemic, with a cap of $25,000 per eligible employee. She said the city is still waiting on state guidance to see exactly who qualifies for the premium pay, but expects it to be in the realm of police officers, firefighters and possibly sanitation workers.
The third area the city and county can use these funds is on investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. With such a broad range, both the city and county are working to find the best ways to utilize that funding.
“We will look to utilize some of the money for the various infrastructure projects that are allowed under the new usages,” Malm said, noting the possibility of increasing connectivity in some parts of the county.
Additionally, municipalities can use the funds to respond to the public health emergency where needed.
The second half of the money will be distributed in the spring of 2022, and the funding must be spent by December 2024.
“I’m just very appreciative of our community’s resilience and patience throughout all of COVID, and I’m confident they will continue to come out better on the other side,” Malm said.