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Legislative Panel To Decide Where $836 Million In Relief Funds Go

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State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro

With nearly $1 billion dollars and maybe Nevada’s future at stake, a new legislative panel will decide how to spend federal pandemic relief money.

The mission: allocate by the end of the year $836 million provided the state in the CARES Act.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson created the 12-member subcommittee, which Frierson chairs.

Cannizzaro told State of Nevada she expects the group to propose ideas on where the funds should go, prevent duplications of effort, and hold state agencies accountable for how the money is spent.

“This money is critically important for the recovery of the state,” Cannizzaro said. “One of the key questions that the subcommittee is going to be tasked with answering is to ensure that these funds are being managed, that they’re being applied toward critical services for everyday Nevadans.”

She said the group is looking at how other states have used their funds, with initiatives including rent-support, workforce development, and food assistance. The state's budget faces an anticipated shortfall of well over $1 billion over the next two fiscal years.

The subcommittee is part of the state’s Interim Finance Committee, which handles budget matters when the Legislature is out of session.

And while partisanship has divided Congress, Cannizzaro believes this subcommittee will look past party differences for the good of the state.

"My hope and what I think the goal is speaking with other members of this subcommittee is that we really utilize this subcommittee as a way to improve the lives of Nevadans," she said, "That is not limited to urban, rural; north, south; Democrat, Republican. This is an opportunity for us to work together with the same goal in mind."

There are some restrictions on how the money can be spent, the state senator said, for example, it can't be spent on items the state had previously budgeted for.

Separately, Cannizzaro, a Democrat from Las Vegas, said efforts to diversify Nevada’s economy should continue even as the state deals with pandemic-related challenges.

“One of the biggest areas of potential for us as a state, in terms of diversifying the economy, is with our renewable energy that we have here in the state and our abundance of natural resources,” she said,

Cannizzaro said the Legislature did make some steps in that direction in the last legislative session with a Renewable Portfolio Standard bill, which was passed with bipartisan support.

She is hopeful the conversations around diversifying Nevada's economy, especially in Southern Nevada, will continue in the next legislative session.

Nicole Cannizzaro, majority leader, Nevada State Senate

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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.