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Study: American Rescue Plan funding represents 22.7% budget increase for Wyoming

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – A study of federal relief spending details how significant of an impact the first deployment of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds will be for Wyoming.

According to the study by PEW Trusts, the $1.7 billion Wyoming received under the plan represents a 22.7% year-over-year increase to the state’s budget. The study determined this increase is the largest in the country.

Wyoming has already received $534 million of ARP funds, according to a report by County 10 News. Next year, the state will receive another $534 million. 

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In all, ARP will distribute $193.5 billion to state and local governments to use on a wide range of issues. The allotments are determined by the number of unemployed workers in each state at the end of 2020. Most states have until 2024 to spend the money, but Wyoming has until 2026.

The study also noted that ARP’s funding methodology favors states that had languishing economies late last year. Wyoming’s economy primarily relies on mineral extraction, tourism, and agriculture, all of which were significantly impacted by the pandemic.

However, the state’s economy has recovered well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wyoming’s unemployment rate is below the national average of 5.9% though the state still ranks 29th among its peers.

When compared against state budgets, the “magnitude” of the ARP aid package is clear, the PEW study said. For example, the funding provides some much-needed breathing room that was a rarity during the Great Recession in 2007.

“For states that entered the pandemic-driven downturn with robust reserves or otherwise escaped significant budget squeezes, the aid offers even more: an unexpected one-time investment opportunity,” the study concluded.

In June, Gov. Mark Gordon and state leaders took the rare investment opportunity to draft a plan calling for local leaders to “support stimulus over relief” and “create capacity for the future.”

Shortly thereafter, Gordon assembled a “strike team” to “identify the things the state needs to do to survive, and what can be done to better drive to a future where all of Wyoming can thrive,” the report noted.

Despite the infusion of funds, lawmakers do not anticipate calling a special session, according to County 10. Instead, lawmakers recommitted to following “the normal processes” when they reconvene for the 2022 session.