Lawmakers outline how to spend $635-million in CARES Act fund


State lawmakers laid out a recent plan to use more than $600-million in federal CARES Act funds to provide immediate relief to residents and small businesses. Of the $635-million from the CARES Act, lawmakers plan to set aside $56-million to support small businesses but it’s not going to be like the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The proposal is to take more than half of the $56-million to use it towards local businesses that need different kinds of workers and retrain people who are unemployed.

“It’s going to be for small businesses. They now have this $36-million to figure out how to re-purpose or restructure themselves and then employ other folks. This is their opportunity to do that,” said House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti.

Representative Belatti says some industries may have to operate differently because of COVID-19.

“We saw a lot of innovations happening during the COVID crisis like the farm-to-car delivery was an innovation and it’s relying a lot on apps,” she said.

Representative Belatti tells us this relief plan is different than the previous direct aid that was given to businesses. It could help cover new expenses needed to stay open during the pandemic.

“Right now, sanitation supplies and PPE are very expensive. So one of the things we are trying to do is help with some of the operational costs with small businesses,” said Belatti.

The plan devotes $100-million to distribute sanitation supplies and Personal Protective Equipment. Another big chunk of the spending plan would support unemployed residents until the end of the year. The money would replace the federal enhanced benefits set to expire July 31.

“So it’s going to be $100 weekly state enhanced benefit in addition to the state unemployment benefits that they get. So it will be approximately $400 a month. It’s far less than what the federal plus-up is,” said Belatti.

Currently, lawmakers are determining how to pass a bill that has the spending plan in it.


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