Gov. Bill Lee’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group is pivoting from the first round of federal coronavirus relief funds to the latest, under the expectation that nearly $9 billion will flow to state and local governments in Tennessee.

The committee of administration officials and lawmakers from both parties met Monday to begin planning for distribution of the funds, approved by Congress earlier this month. Republican leaders in Tennessee have been highly critical of the American Rescue Plan, though that has not slowed their efforts to prepare to spend the money.

According to a presentation by administration officials, the legislation is expected to deliver $4 billion to the state, $2.26 billion to local governments and $2.3 billion to local school districts. Billions more has been or will be distributed directly to individuals.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower, who is working with local governments on administration of the funds. “It can certainly be seen as a blessing, but it can cause a problem if it’s not managed correctly.”

Final guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury is not expected for another month or two, administration officials said, meaning the work underway is preliminary. The accountability group will meet again later this spring to discuss further steps.

Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley said the goal is to finalize spending from the 2020 relief package by July 1 in order to keep the two programs as separate as possible.

Restrictions on the new funds are different from those of the first round, which officials said was more targeted at short-term coronavirus needs. The state and local governments have a longer window within which to spend the new dollars, flexibility for which administration officials said they were grateful.

“We have significantly more time to process how we spend this money, and that’s a good thing,” Eley said.

(Nashville Post

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