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Las Vegas Awaits CARES Act Funds, Plans For A Challenging Future

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Medical and physician assistant students wear personal protective equipment as they prepare to screen for possible coronavirus cases at a makeshift camp for the homeless Saturday, March 28, 2020, in Las Vegas.

At a time when Nevada municipalities are typically finishing their fiscal year budgets, Las Vegas City Manager Scott Adams is fighting a pandemic.

On the north edge of downtown, the city and Clark County have joined together to build a temporary COVID-19 quarantine facility for the homeless at Cashman Field.

The facility is expected to open Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the city and much of its revenue sources remain on lockdown.

Adams has said the city could receive $160 million from CARES Act funding, but Las Vegas could face a future of increased need and decreased revenue.

While the city is hopeful it will get the funding, the rules attached to it could mean it will only be used for coronavirus expenses.

Adams said the city needs to be prepared to address the budget shortfall, which is estimated at $160 million, on its own.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to put a budget together that gets the job done with or without the federal government," he said, "Our worst-case scenarios we can’t make it happen with the feds. We’ve got to make it happen all by ourselves and we’re going to put together a budget that reflects that.”

The city does have a rainy day fund but it won't be enough to make up for millions it is expected to lose in revenue. 

“The city is well-positioned with about $150 million in cash reserves about $60 million that we need to keep for cash flow. So we’re well short about $100 million available against $160 million problem,” he said.

Adams said the city is putting together a plan that will include budget cuts and that means loss of services.

“It’s not going to be pretty. I think it's going to end up resulting in a reduction of services, some facility closings, but at the end of the day, I think we’re just concerned about the financial survival of the city and making sure we get through it and we know it’s temporary, and at some point in the future, we’ll spring back.”

The city has sent non-essential workers home, essential workers who can work from are doing that and those who must come into work, like firefighters, are going to their jobs.

Construction projects at Symphony Park are going forward, as are private construction projects downtown like Circa, the first new resort project in downtown in decades.

Adams said the private sector remains bullish about the future of Las Vegas, and since the reason for the economic crisis is so unusual, he believes the recovery will be much faster than what the city experienced after the Great Recession.

“We’ve just got to get city government through it and I think there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel at the other end,” he said.

Adams believes when the pandemic has subsided and government services get back to normal there will be changes brought on by the outbreak that will make city government work better and more efficiently.

Scott Adams, city manager, City of Las Vegas

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.