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Assembly Republicans set to pass bills to control federal relief funds

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The Wisconsin Assembly will vote on plans Tuesday to direct the spending for about $3.2 billion federal COVID relief funds–bills that Gov. Evers will likely veto, and several of which would likely either violate federal law or require repayment from the state.

Republicans want to direct $1 billion in funding to direct payments to property owners, based on a sliding formula of how much property tax they paid out. The direct payments would not include renters.

Other bills would direct millions into tourism and small business grants, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Measures also include funding for local highways and bridges, broadband expansion grants, and retirement of some state debt.

A review from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that some of the bills may not be allowed under federal law, such as debt repayments and funding for highways and bridges. For others, if the state were to follow through on the GOP plans like direct payments to property owners, as much as two-thirds of the relief funds might have to be repaid to the federal government.

The governor has already vetoed a bill that would have given the legislature more oversight over how to spend the COVID federal relief funds, and is likely to veto all or most of the measures controlling the American Rescue Plan funds. Currently, state law puts control over the funds in the governor’s office. He has indicated his plans to direct the money towards businesses, broadband and infrastructure, as well as the state’s COVID response like vaccination and testing.

President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan sent about $5.7 billion in total to Wisconsin, with about $2.5 billion allocated for local governments and the remainder set for the state.

Meanwhile, state leaders have not indicated there is a plan in motion to recover $50 million in lost federal FoodShare expansion money for seniors and low income families. Those cuts are set to take effect in May.

A separate proposal would introduce a three-month break from sales tax at places like resorts, bars, and restaurants.

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