Lawmakers want detailed reports on spending federal virus money

Entrance to the State Legislature of Nevada in Carson City

Entrance to the State Legislature of Nevada in Carson City

Members of the Legislative Interim Finance Committee were emphatic Wednesday that they receive detailed reports on how the state spends the $836 million in federal money to cover costs of battling the pandemic.

Chairman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said they will request a report for each IFC meeting on how the money is being distributed, the amounts going to each recipient, how it’s being spent and the outcomes. She said it’s important to track all expenditures and report on them transparently.

Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus, R-Wellington, said she also wants to be able to track how local governments, hospital districts and other non-state entities receiving funding use that money.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he wants to make sure lawmakers receive detailed information when available on the damage to Nevada’s various revenue streams.

He was told by LCB economist Russell Guindon that, at this point, it’s just an educated guess for most of the state’s revenue streams until they get into June and have more data from the Department of Taxation.

But he said there is certainty about one revenue stream — the gaming percentage fee that makes up Nevada’s second largest source of revenue after sales taxes. With casinos closed, he said that will be zero from March through the rest of this fiscal year.

“That’s a $160 million loss,” he said.

He also said he and his staff have no accurate way to calculate the damage to the state and school district portions of the sales tax at this point.

Kieckhefer also asked state Finance Director Susan Brown about the progress in ordering executive branch agencies to make the 4 percent cuts mandated by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

She said the administration is still working through the proposals provided by executive branch agencies.

“Time is of the essence if we want to capture those reserve amounts,” Kieckhefer said.

Carlton said she understands that time is slipping away with just six weeks left this fiscal year but that, “It’s not just getting it done quickly; it’s getting it done right.”

Guindon told the committee there may be a few positive signs in the revenue picture, including the legislation that expanded sales tax collections to include online purchases that he said were coming in well above projections. He said that may well be because people working from home are making many more purchases online instead of going to stores.

In addition, the committee voted to approve receipt of $32.9 million through the CARES Act to ensure that child care remains available to Nevada workers. A significant number of child care businesses have shut down because with parents laid off or working from home, they can take care of their children.

Elisa Cafferatta told them the money is designed to restart those businesses once the pandemic is past and the state has recovered.

“Child care is essential to Nevada’s economy,” she said.


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