WCCA News

Special Session Review

Posted by kelli.little on May 19, 2020

By Jerimiah Rieman, Executive Director

In a historic special session – the first since 2004 and the first entirely online – the Wyoming Legislature completed work on three bills over two days (more than 30 hours of action). Those acts are now with the Governor for final consideration. These emergency actions in response to COVID-19 address CARES Act funding distribution and necessary employer and worker protections. Each measure is described below.

Two additional bills were considered but rejected – HB/SF 1003 Emergency budgeting – COVID-19. and HB/SF 1005 Coronavirus immunity provisions. The former provided an incentive for state agencies and school districts to save financial resources. The later, in concept, was incorporated into HB/SF 1002 Emergency government action – COVID-19.

HB/SF 1001 Emergency appropriation – COVID-19 funds. (Enrolled Act No. 1, Senate)
Effective Date: Immediately

Section 1 outlines legislative findings and classifies replacement of lost revenue for local governments as a priority need. Section 2 provides the Governor broad authority to establish emergency programs in order to distribute the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds. Counties, subject to approval of the state loan and investment board, are eligible for expenses incurred to respond to the public health emergency and the impacts caused by COVID-19, subject to U.S. Treasury guidance. Other eligible entities include: 

  • State entities;
  • Cities and towns;
  • Health care providers, rural health care districts, hospital districts and health care facilities;
  • Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes,
  • Wyoming businesses;
  • Judicial branch; and
  • Legislative branch.

Funding is released as follows: 

  • $450 million immediately (NOTE: Allocations noted below count against this figure.)
  • $400 million July 15th, absent enactment of further legislation
  • Remaining funds September 15th, absent enactment of further legislation

HB/SF 1002 Emergency government action – COVID-19. (Enrolled Act No. 2, Senate)
Effective Date: Immediately

This bill concerns four areas: mortgage and landlord/tenant relief, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, and immunity from liability –

  1. Mortgage and Landlord/Tenant Relief – The bill provides a mechanism for the Wyoming Community Development Authority to support mortgage and landlord/tenant relief to avoid the eviction of needy persons. Appropriation – $15 million.
  2. Worker’s Compensation – The bill authorizes the worker’s compensation program to cover work-related COVID-19 injuries and shields claims from being charged to an employer’s experience rating. Further, the bill provides a worker’s compensation premium credit, like that authorized during the recent budget session.
  3. Unemployment Insurance – The bill allows acceptance of federal funding for the operation and administration of the short-term compensation program under the CARES Act (i.e., the $600 per week additional payment to unemployed workers). Further, the bill shields unemployment benefits from being charged to an employer’s unemployment compensation account, subject to Governor executive order.
  4. Immunity from Liability – The bill shields any health care provider or other person, including a business entity, who in good faith follows the instructions of a state, city, town or county health officer or who acts in good faith in responding to the public health emergency from any liability arising from complying with those instructions or acting in good faith.

HB/SF 1004 COVID-19 business relief programs – 2. (Enrolled Act No. 1, House)
Effective Date: Immediately

The bill authorizes three new programs through the Wyoming Business Council:

  • Business Interruption Stipend Program – Allows the WBC to reimburse Wyoming owned and operated businesses of 50 full-time employees or less for the costs of business interruptions caused by required closures. Stipends range from $20,000 to $50,000. Preference will be provided to businesses that have not received any funding from the federal paycheck protection program. Appropriation – $50 million.
  • Coronavirus Business Relief Stipend Program – Allows the WBC to reimburse Wyoming owned and operated businesses of 100 full-time employees or less with its headquarters or principal location in Wyoming that has been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or by required closures. Stipends shall not exceed $300,000. Eligible expenses include payroll costs, business supplies, necessary equipment to resume or modify operations, mortgage and utility payments, and other COVID-19 related expenses. Companies who receive a stipend are required to maintain a meaningful nexus to the Wyoming for not less than three years. Appropriation – $225 million.
  • Coronavirus Mitigation Stipend Program – Allows the WBC to reimburse businesses for actual expenses incurred (i.e., cleaning products, sanitizers, personal protection equipment, etc.) to comply with public health guidelines. Stipends shall not exceed $500,000. Appropriation – $50 million.

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In related news, the legislature is expected to announce another special session for the week of June 29th. In the meantime, interim committee work begins in earnest on May 19th. Another legislative report will be provided in early June.