State budget advances, huge work on how to spend billions in federal aid starts soon | 406 Politics

The Legislature has also pushed back when it will hit its 90-day end point, in part, Jones said, to give more time to wrangle the federal money.

Sen. Ryan Osmundson, a Republican from Buffalo who chairs the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, said Friday it’s not clear how much of that money will be available for the Legislature to appropriate, but the figure is at least $900 million if not higher. Some money is set by Congress to go to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for example, but other pots of money come with far fewer strings attached.

The money from this third round of federal aid has a four-year period to be spent, which Jones said means some could be portioned off by lawmakers to be spent in the 2023 session because it’ll be difficult to tell over the second half of the session what all the state’s needs might end up being.

Gianforte’s budget director, Kurt Alme, told the House Appropriations Committee earlier in the week he wanted lawmakers to focus on using the funds for programs that can boost the state’s infrastructure and finance a strong rebound from COVID-19 and be wary of creating programs that will require funding past when the aid rolls out.

Jones said given the more open definitions of how this round of aid could be spent compared to the first package of $1.25 billion that hit the state just over a year ago, this money could be applied to broadband development, water and sewer projects and other school spending.