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July 23, 2014

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Stimulus money issues more than just: How much?

The biggest job in Carson City this week is decoding the federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and figuring out how much money Nevada will get — and what strings are attached.

Legislative staff estimates that the federal stimulus bill includes almost $1.5 billion for Nevada, according to sources with knowledge of the work. Yet much of that money is earmarked for specific programs.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said staff worked over the weekend to come up with preliminary estimates. She said it is believed the state will net $480 million to help close its $2.3 billion budget gap.

On top of that, a joint subcommittee will meet today to discuss how to spend the state’s $200 million to $210 million set aside for infrastructure projects.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said money will be spent on projects that can create the most jobs. He said the Nevada Transportation Department has compiled a list of 10 to 12 projects for consideration.

Buckley said the state is expected to get about $400 million in federal matching money for health care programs. (Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget had assumed an additional $100 million.) The state will also be eligible for $395 million in general government stabilization funds, but will have to spend $265 million to maintain services to qualify, she said.

She said the state would also get about $180 million for education.

Buckley said the state is unlikely to go through a waiver process that would allow it to get the money without restoring spending at previous years’ levels. She said she doesn’t believe the state has time to wait for a waiver to be approved.

Any lingering questions about the bill could wait until noon Wednesday, when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is scheduled to address the Legislature.

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Thomas Morton, director of the Clark County Family Services Department, told a legislative budget subcommittee Monday that he cannot implement Gibbons’ proposed 6 percent pay cut.

Without layoffs, Morton said, he would have to keep vacant from 32 to 49 positions to achieve the proposed $2.4 million reduction in the state’s allocation to Clark County to run the department. That would mean assigning more administrative duties to case workers and giving them less time to spend with clients, he said.

The state supplies money to the county for welfare services, which include foster care licensing, adoption and family services.

The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees heard a number of pleas to maintain social services budgets.

Gard Jameson of the Children Advance Alliance of Southern Nevada urged the committee to continue funding state services to maintain a federal match.

Peter Ediger of Family Promise told the lawmakers they must make an effort to keep families intact “in these economic troubled times.”

And Tom Waite of Boys Town of Nevada said with the economy performing poorly the stress on families becomes worse.

Committee members also were concerned about a planned reduction in block grants to local governments to help children get counseling and keep them out of the state’s juvenile detention facilities.

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