After nine weeks of COVID-19 restrictions that either closed or significantly curtailed local economies, the state wants to move quickly in distributing up to $450 million of federal CARES Act money to businesses.

After a marathon 36-hour special session Friday and Saturday, the Legislature has set the table for the state to help the economy re-emerge along with help for landlords, renters and homeowners, said Gov. Mark Gordon during a Wednesday afternoon coronavirus briefing.

“We are building Wyoming back … Wyoming’s and America’s unsinkable economy,” Gordon said.

Wyoming has been allocated $1.25 billion from the CARES Act to offset COVID-19 impacts and after the special session they money has been earmarked for $450 million to be put to use immediately, then another $400 million starting July 15 and $400 million starting Sept. 15, the governor said.

Small businesses that “fell through the cracks” of receiving federal Paycheck Protection Program money will be given priority under the state’s new program, Gordon said. The rapid response that is hoped to begin June 1 has up to $325 million available for:

• $50 million for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, which will get up to $50,000 each

• $225 million for businesses with 51-100 employees, which can get up to $300,000 each

• $50 million for larger employers

Just how to apply and streamline the process to distribute that money quickly while still vetting requests for fraud is still being worked out, said Josh Dorrell, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council, which has been tasked to oversee the requests.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will develop these programs from scratch,” Dorrell said.

That response will include online tools to apply and a series of webinars to guide businesses owners through the process, he said.

The raft of bills passed during the special session also allow Gordon to spend the state’s federal CARES Act money at his discression, but the governor said that’s not something he relishes doing.

“I’m a conservative and I understand the reason why these funds have come our way and I don’t enjoy having to spend them,” he said.

Battling another virus

Along with the novel coronavirus, Gordon said he’s keenly aware that many in the Cowboy State also are suffering from acute spring fever, in many cases made more difficult because of the COVID-19 public health requirements.

He said he understands that with the nice weather and the state slowly starting to reopen that some are feeling “a bit prickly” about the process moving slowly.

Be patient, he said, “and we can beat this. We can make it happen.”

He also urged people to respect the recommendations to wear face coverings if out in public and being near others.

Doing so is not a sign of weakness or a political statement, Gordon said. “Wearing one is a sign of respect. … If we become complacent, we could well see more people becoming sign and we don’t want that.”

Another local case

The 17th case of coronavirus in Campbell County was confirmed Wednesday morning.

The new case is a woman in her 60s who is quarantined at home. Contact tracing is being conducted by Campbell County Public Health.

According to a press release, the new case appears to be another community-acquired case, meaning there is no known contact with another confirmed or probable case.

There are now five active cases in Campbell County, including four probable cases and one lab-confirmed. Twenty-five cases, including 16 lab-confirmed and nine probable, have recovered.

As Gordon and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist begin to relax restrictions on businesses and activities, Public Health would like to remind the community that the responsibility for preventing the spread of COVID-19 now falls to residents.

To protect the county's vulnerable populations and help local businesses recover, each of must do their part while out and about in the community, the agency says.

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