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Nevada Legislature passes assistance resolution, credit bill

CARSON CITY — Both houses of the Nevada Legislature moved through featherweight agendas Tuesday on Day 7 of a special legislative session increasingly notable for its seeming lack of urgency or progress to address a $1.2 billion state budget shortfall that represents one of out four dollars in the state’s general fund.

Both houses passed a resolution that calls on the federal government to provide additional “flexible” funding for Nevada to help the state manage its fiscal shortfall.

Both also approved Senate Bill 4, which allows the state to open a short-term line of credit of up to $150 million this year if the state runs into a cash flow crunch. The measure applies to the current fiscal year only.

Speaking in favor of the resolution on the Assembly floor, Assemblyman Howard Watts III, D-Las Vegas, said that the state’s proposed budget cuts are “balanced on the backs of the least fortunate among us.” Among them, state agencies face potential cuts totaling $532 million, including a $230 million cut to Department of Health and Human Services. That bill is still pending.

Nevada’s K-12 schools face $156 million in cuts.

Watts said that he’s in favor of lawmakers discussing revenue increases, but added that a special session “is a less than ideal setting” for those talks.

“I think it’s time for us to send a clear message to Washington that we need more assistance,” Watts said.

The resolution passed the Assembly on a unanimous vote. In the Senate, the vote was 20-1 with Sen. Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, condemning federal pandemic assistance, such as the CARES Act, as “political camouflage.” The chamber’s seven other Republicans backed the resolution, which only expresses the consensus position of the Legislature and carries no real weight.

Earlier in the day, the Interim Finance Commission approved the distribution of more than $34 million in federal pandemic assistance to Nevada under the CARES Act. The largest portion — $30 million — will provide financial assistance through December to renters who demonstrate need arising directly from a COVID-19 related cause. Two-thirds of the funds, or $20 million, will be distributed in Clark County, with $5 million each going to Reno and to rural areas.

Of the remainder, $3.3 million will go to help K-12 schools with remote learning programs under the COVID-19 state of emergency, about $849,000 will provide additional food assistance to families with children who receive meals under the National School Lunch program, and nearly $174,000 will help fund outreach to help residents of long-term care facilities cut off from in-person visits due to quarantines.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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