Sisolak and other governors discuss stimulus strategies in Washington
WASHINGTON- The country’s governors met in person for the first time in two years on Saturday to share strategies for economic recovery and disaster response as states are still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, was among those attending the 114th winter meeting of the National Governors Association, a bipartisan group.
“We are working together to find solutions,” Sisolak told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Many states are grappling with an influx of federal funds from coronavirus relief programs and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Federal requirements and spending guidelines are still being drafted, posing questions to state leaders about how best to use resources.
“I think all states are extremely interested in how we can get the most value for federal infrastructure dollars,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican and president of the National Governors Association, said the group of state leaders will meet with President Joe Biden and administration officials to work out “details as to the flexibility that states have to invest this important money. ”
About $4 billion is coming to Nevada through the $1.2 trillion infrastructure act to repair roads, repair bridges, upgrade water systems and expand broadband access to rural communities and underserved state.
The Nevada government, its counties, cities and school districts will also receive an estimated $4.5 billion in additional aid from coronavirus assistance programs.
Nevada businesses received loans and laid-off workers got increased unemployment benefits during the pandemic, which has hit the tourism and hospitality industries particularly hard.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Mitch Landrieu, the president’s infrastructure implementation coordinator, were addressing governors at the three-day conference, which ends Monday with a White House lunch with Biden.
At Saturday’s conference, the governors’ wives, including Kathy Sisolak, joined first lady Jill Biden and Operation Gratitude military leaders to prepare 1,000 care packages for distribution to National Guard members deployed to the abroad in the context of operations related to the coronavirus.
The spouses had their group photo taken with the first lady and the president.
“The good news is that you are wearing masks; you can deny you’ve been here,” the president joked.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s session was the first time governors have met since the pandemic halted travel and large meetings two years ago. Hawaii and Nevada have been the hardest hit states by the pandemic, in terms of unemployment, as businesses closed or reduced operations.
Since then, the large influx of federal funds has placed many governors in the enviable position of being able to spend on roads, bridges, schools and other projects in an election year.
Sisolak, a first-term governor, faces a wide array of GOP candidates vying for the nomination to challenge the incumbent in November.
Last wave of COVID-19
Governors, like the federal lawmakers who passed the spending bills, have hailed the relief and infrastructure programs that have helped bail out states during the pandemic.
But some are asking for additional help from the administration to continue the economic rebound and fight new strains of coronavirus that threaten health and economic progress.
Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen joined several other Democratic senators last week in criticizing the Biden administration for its failure to address “testing shortages” in states when the omicron variant of the virus exploded.
This month, Sisolak secured 588,000 COVID-19 home test kits to distribute in Nevada to libraries, daycares, fire stations and through community groups. The tests were purchased with federal relief funds.
Hutchinson said in Arkansas he was able to deploy National Guard units to help distribute aid and help with vaccination efforts and care for people with COVID-19.
Although the meeting emphasized bipartisan leadership, governors were widely split along party lines on Biden’s proposed $1.7 trillion social spending bill, known as Build Back Better, which is stuck in Congress.
This legislation would expand child tax credits, cap prescription drug costs for seniors, provide free pre-school education and provide incentives for clean energy projects.