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Wisconsin Faces Paying Back Feds $447 Million in COVID Relief Dollars

ESSER COVID Relief Spending

The state of Wisconsin could soon be expected to return as much as $447 million in federal funds to the government as part of the debt ceiling agreement brokered by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Gov. Tony Evers told reporters his administration is now planning for the possibility of returning the untapped funds, which were originally part of the windfall the state received from the federal pandemic funds that were issued to states that helped them recover from the impact of COVID-19.

“We haven’t heard anything because I don’t think the written document exists so we are planning all across our agencies,” Evers said. “We’re looking at what is known and seeing how much money we would have to send back but at this point in time we’re not anywhere near because they aren’t anywhere near soup yet.”

The agreement between the two sides raises the country’s borrowing limit but also dictates that the federal government retake possession of roughly $30 billion in unspent pandemic relief funding. While it remains an open question just how much federal funding Wisconsin will have to return, as recently as in March the state had not spent $447 million in pandemic relief funding.

The state is now “closely monitoring the ongoing conversations at the federal level regarding any potential recissions,” Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback said.

In addition, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he and those around him have also started to prepare for all the changes that could be coming.

In a statement, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley added “We have and will continue to leverage one-time funding to support community needs, even as we prioritize conversations with leaders in Madison to identify a long-term solution to avoid a quickly approaching fiscal cliff and continue county services residents rely on each day.”

With the federal public health emergency has formally come to an end after three years in early May, Milwaukee County officials regularly allocated funds they received in the areas of tackling housing insecurity and increasing residents’ access to mental and behavioral health resources.

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