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Cheyenne's Municipal Building. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – As the State Loan and Investment Board is preparing to roll out federal CARES Act funding to Wyoming municipalities, Cheyenne officials and staff are working diligently to finalize the city’s applications totaling up to $5 million.

The Cheyenne City Council passed a resolution at a special meeting Monday night that allows the city to submit its CARES Act grant applications to the state. With that, City Attorney Mike O’Donnell said they’ll submit their first application within a day or two and the others shortly thereafter, as the grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We don’t want to leave opportunities on the table, as far as being able to utilize those dollars for the economic health and well-being of our community,” Mayor Marian Orr said.

The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, on behalf of the State Loan and Investment Board, is set to approve municipal applications at an August meeting, though O’Donnell said a special meeting at an earlier date is likely. Of the $1.25 billion Wyoming received from the CARES Act, about $75 million is estimated to be available for municipalities.

The city will submit multiple applications in different categories, the first being for payroll expenses.

Though O’Donnell said there’s no hard number yet, he estimated the city’s request for payroll would be around $1 million, about half of which the city has already incurred. The other half is the amount the city anticipates it will spend on COVID-19-related work in coming months.

While the future costs will be paid out as they are incurred by the city if the grant is approved, the reimbursement for COVID-19-related work will go into the city’s general fund. For fiscal year 2021, an amendment proposed by Councilman Dicky Shanor outlines how funds will be used by the city to fill holes left by a tight budget.

“Once the money is in the general fund, then the budget ordinance controls the first distributions,” O’Donnell said. “Any additional monies that may be obtained through the payroll reimbursement becomes a matter of governing board re-appropriations.”

After the city covers its cost of COVID-19 expenditures, the first $51,328.26 in CARES Act money in the general fund will be appropriated to the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority for its COVID-19 emergency grants. The next set of funding, from $51,328.27 to $196,681, will be given to the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department, and so on.

Peak Wellness’ Alcohol Receiving Center, which provides drug and alcohol rehabilitation at no cost to the patient, is also slated to receive some CARES Act funding from the city. Without the amendment, the original 100% cut in city funding would’ve taken away 47% of its budget.

The other categories the city will be submitting grant applications under are for personal protective equipment (PPE), and technology and training. These categories cover everything from hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to technological equipment like the software required for socially distant public meetings.

Orr said the city is also exploring grant opportunities for mental health services, pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic causing an increased need. The grants could be used for residents without insurance or for the city’s first responders, including the Cheyenne Police Department, which saw their mental health services cut in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

“This is still a moving target,” O’Donnell said.

The council resolution passed Monday authorized the city to ask for up to $5 million without further action from the governing body, leaving room for the council to take more action as the situation plays out. The council unanimously passed the resolution Monday, with Councilman Ken Esquibel absent and Councilman Dicky Shanor abstaining due to his connections with the State Loan and Investment Board.

The first round of applications for municipalities are due to the State Loan and Investment Board by July 23, and additional funding could become available in coming months.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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