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Nevada Says It Needs More Federal Aid To Survive Economic Effects Of COVID-19


This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysisof states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Nevada is facing a budget shortfall of about $1.2 billion. The two largest sources of state revenue — sales tax and taxes on casino winnings — depend heavily on tourism, which ground to a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

During a special session of the state legislature, lawmakers approved deep cuts to state services to balance the budget. Medicaid, K-12 education and the state's public universities all saw their share of the state's general fund reduced, although federal CARES Act funding will fill in some of the gaps.

Republicans in the state Senate blocked an attempt to offset some cuts by effectively raising taxes on mining.

Cuts will affect initiatives designed to close achievement gaps among students of color — especially Black students, who have a staggeringly low 58% high school graduation rate in Nevada.

"Every time this happens, we're going to be the ones who keep getting hit," Claribel Zecena, who works for Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services, told the state's Assembly. "Because we don't diversify our revenue sources."

Progressive activists agree. And along with pushing to remove corporate tax incentives, lawmakers are also pushing for more federal coronavirus relief.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson says lawmakers learned how important aid can be during the Great Recession. "It's important now that we continue to press the United States Senate to get more dollars to the states," he says. "We've learned in the past that we couldn't do it on our own."

Bert Johnson is the legislative reporter for Nevada Public Radio.


Copyright 2020 Nevada Public Radio

Bert Johnson