Nevada lawmakers OK programs to spend $210 million in CARES Act money
The Interim Finance Committee on Friday approved a laundry list of work programs allocating $210 million in federal CARES Act money to numerous state agencies.
Under the federal act, states have until Dec. 30 to commit the money or they will have to return what’s left.
Much of the funding will support purchases of personal protective equipment, equipment to deal with the pandemic and other such materials. But a large chunk will go to cover administrative leave for employees to work from home or to take care of family members who are sick.
One part of the program, $81.6 million to offset salaries in the Department of Corrections, was questioned by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who asked if some of that money could be dedicated to “higher purposes” helping people directly rather than a salary offset that instead returns budgeted funding to the General Fund. He was told the federal act essentially dedicated that pot of money to public safety purposes.
While he voted for the omnibus package of work programs, he said he was still concerned about the issue.
Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, said his main concern was getting all the funding committed so none of it ends up going back to the federal government. Her said the meeting materials say some $47 million remains uncommitted.
But Lesley Mohlenkamp, Nevada’s Coronavirus Relief Fund coordinator, said that number has been cut to just $17.1 million as of the committee’s Friday actions. She said the number would be zero before the Dec. 30 deadline.
“We have actually the remaining funds prioritized to areas where we see immediate assistance to Nevadans,” she said.
Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, R-Reno, questioned the nearly $33 million going to the highway fund. Finance Director Susan Brown told her the majority of that, some $25 million, is for highway patrol salaries.
Another pot of money went to programs managed by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Treasurer’s office to help businesses survive and recover from the pandemic.