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Yes, please! State accepts $2.7B in federal COVID relief

CARSON CITY – The state’s $2.7 billion share of American Rescue Plan funds to respond to COVID-19 pandemic impacts is officially in the bank following action Tuesday by a legislative committee.

The Interim Finance Committee’s formal vote to accept the funds essentially sets up a reserve account for yet-to-be-determined projects related to pandemic mitigation under a state framework. That framework emphasizes support for health care access, public education, disadvantaged communities, workforce development, infrastructure investment, modernizing government services, and budget shortfalls.

The total amount, just under $2.74 billion, is direct to the state and comes in addition to separate allocations made to counties, school districts and large cities.

“This might be the largest IFC item that we’ve ever dealt with,” said Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas and the committee chairman.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas and the committee’s vice chair, said, “Oh, hell yes!” when Brooks requested a motion to vote on accepting the funds.

The money is in addition to billions more received by local governments and school districts, including $440 million to Clark County, $130 million to Las Vegas, $46 million to North Las Vegas and $37 million to Henderson. Nevada schools got $1.1 billion; localities with less than 50,000 population shared $150.7 million. Brooks said total pandemic assistance to the state had topped $7 billion.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislative leaders in April released a plan for allocating the latest batch of funds, seeking input from across Nevada through local government channels but also via direct requests. The state framework includes links for stakeholders and members of the public to share their ideas for spending the money, in English and Spanish.

“It is our hope to hear from all Nevadans on the best ways to use these funds, and it is our intention that these requests will be organized and prioritized in a collaborative manner,” said Susan Brown, director of the governor’s finance office, during the hearing Tuesday. She did not have the latest numbers on requests received to date; Brooks said the last number heard was more than 1,000.

Carlton, setting expectations, noted that the windfall would not be immediately available, with requested allocations going through normal channels, including the IFC. Funds also need to go to plugging budget holes and covering ongoing costs of virus response.

“It’s going to take some time to get it out there and get it on the street to folks,” Carlton said. “So all my nonprofit friends, don’t be calling me saying when can they apply for the money because it’s going to be a while.”

The state will use $5 million to fund a raffle to encourage people to get vaccinated. National figures put the vaccine-shy Silver State in the lowest third of states by rate of percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated. The official state tally on Tuesday listed the vaccination rate for Nevadans 12 and older at 43.5 percent.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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