What are states and cities doing with millions of Covid relief dollars? Try nothing

The Best American Rescue Plan Is An “Abuse-Of-Crisis Prevention Act”

On March 11, the President signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, a $1.9 trillion package.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle class folks, people who built the country, a fighting chance,” Mr. Biden said before signing the bill.

The Associated Press reports:

As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.

That’s true. More than 400 mayors to be exact begged Washington for relief financing. And now they’re getting what they requested.

In Wisconsin Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said relief money was a “Godsend” becauseThere’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said, “The COVID pandemic disrupted everything and put strain on people and businesses throughout the city in countless ways, and this federal support allows the city to alleviate some of that strain and help Madisonians recover. We expect the impacts to continue well into the future.”

According to a memo by Wisconsin’s outstanding Legislative Fiscal Bureau direct payments to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments may be used to cover costs incurred prior to December 31, 2024, for the following purposes:

a. to respond to the coronavirus pandemic or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;

b. to replace revenues lost as a result of the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, for the purposes of providing government services;

c. to make investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure;

d. to provide premium pay of up to $13 per hour per worker, in addition to a worker’s usual wage or remuneration (up to $25,000 in total for any single worker) for workers employed by the state who perform essential work during the pandemic, or to provide grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work. The term “eligible workers” is defined as those workers needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors, as well as additional sectors designated by the Governor of a state or territory as critical to protect the health and well-being of residents of the state or territory.

e. to transfer funds to private nonprofit organizations, tribal organizations, public benefit corporations involved in the transportation of passengers or cargo, or special-purpose units of state or local governments.

Milwaukee Mayor Barrett already has some idea on how the city will spend its $405,717,721.

“Clearly housing is a priority, early education, we’re going to have a working group dealing with broadband,” Barrett said. “The whole lead issue, that means primary the issue of lead-based paint, because we believe that the infrastructure package will probably address a lot of the lead lateral issues. The lights. We’ve had a lot of problems with lights. We’ve got a lot of places where we have to fill holes because of lost revenue as well.”

BUT the Associated Press is also now reporting that many recipients of all that government cash are sitting on the money:

Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.

As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis.

Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.

For example, here in Franklin, WI where I live Mayor Steve Olson informs me no decisions have been made yet on what to do with the city’s allotment of $3,539,936. And that’s fine. There may not be problems in Franklin that are as pressing or in need of immediate attentions as there are elsewhere.

There’s also no rush since Covid payments as mentioned may be used to cover costs incurred prior to December 31, 2024.

So what’s the issue?

I’m stunned that so few governments are uncharacteristically uncommon in their total restraint of spending such windfalls. They cry for lots of money. They get it. Then do…nothing?

Hell is now at 32 degrees.

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