CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers reviewing the state’s nearly $1.5 billion share of federal stimulus money were told Tuesday that the agency overseeing the state’s social service programs could start running out of money by the end of this month.
Mike Willden, state Health and Human Services Department chief, said that if the state submits the necessary paperwork quickly, his agency could start drawing federal stimulus money to solve the problem.
“At the end of this month, we’re going to have cash flow problems in a number of places,” Willden said. “We have $44 million (in federal funds) sitting out in a bank account right now that we could draw tomorrow.”
The funds would be available after Gov. Jim Gibbons and Willden’s agency agree to terms of the stimulus package. After that, the $44 million would be available immediately because as part of the package, the federal government agreed to give the state more Medicaid money this fiscal year.
Also, Nevada would get $14.3 million in federal stimulus money for early childhood development. That would enable the state to reduce a waiting list for child care aid, Willden said. Currently, 1,860 people are on the waiting list.
The influx of federal Medicaid dollars would free up state funds that would have been spent on Medicaid. Lawmakers have said that state money could be used to meet matching fund requirements for higher education funding. Currently, the state is about $260 million short of the matching goal for education.
“We’ve got $324 million sitting on the table, but we know we have to spend some money somewhere, general fund dollars … to meet maintenance of effort requirements,” said Dan Klaich, executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. “We are finding with this act, as with all of these things, that the devil is really in the details.”
The state could apply for a waiver from meeting the maintenance of effort requirements but has not yet done so. The governor’s budget office said that it has not yet decided whether to seek the waiver.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, has said that the state’s chances of getting a waiver are “slim to none” because it would take too long. But she thinks the state would be able to meet the maintenance of effort requirements, and she urged lawmakers and the governor’s office to accept the stimulus money.
The state’s ability to meet the matching funds requirement for higher education also would affect its ability to get stimulus money for K-12 education because those funds are tied together.
Legislative fiscal analyst Mark Stevens said that to qualify, both higher education and the K-12 schools would have to restore their funding to the 2006 levels.