Tennessee, local governments to see $2.7 billion under federal CARES Act

Photo by Andy Sher / Tennessee's COVID-19 Unified Command head Stuart McWhorter addresses reporters.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee and some local governments will receive a combined $2.7 billion under Congress' recently approved CARES Act, which provides relief to embattled states, the head of the state's Unified Command, Stuart McWhorter, told legislators Wednesday during a telephone conference call.

A $150 billion provision of the $2.2 trillion measure is providing $1.45 billion directly to Tennessee government, while special provisions for local governments representing over a half million people means $1.19 billion to be split among three governments here: Davidson County (Metro Nashville), Shelby County and the city of Memphis, according to an analysis by the Nashville-based Sycamore Institute, a think tank.

The Sycamore Institute analysis also estimates that Tennessee could see at least $3.6 billion from the federal government's response so far to the coronavirus pandemic as state officials and local governments battle expected twin crises in both health care and a looming economic recession.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.

McWhorter, who last week stepped down as state finance commissioner to take on his new role coordinating the state's response on behalf of Lee, told state legislators during the teleconference call that the administration, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate speaker, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, have agreed to create a "pandemic finance accountability group." Members include Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

Earlier, Gov. Bill Lee and several of his commissioners briefed lawmakers on a variety of topics and steps the administration is taking or has underway amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Lee told lawmakers he is "fully aware" that decisions being made by departments and agencies under his purview have "tremendous implications on people's lives."

He said that's why he's sought to "use information and data to make the kinds of decisions that are impacting the people you serve."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.