To mitigate the economic impact of the recent pandemic, the federal government recently passed American Rescue Plan. The plan provides $350 billion to help states, cities, counties, and tribal governments to replenish lost revenue and cover increased costs after the pandemic. The first half of the payment will be directed now while the other half in the month of May, next year.
These relief dollars represent a big positive fiscal jolt to budgets for many local governments, so the scramble has begun to determine the best ways to use the money. Several potential projects have been brought forward by various department heads. The decision taken by the heads will determine the trajectories of growth in the cities.
As per Roberta Windham, County Administrator at Carroll County MD, the county is slated to receive federal aid of $32 million, but 54 county projects have been proposed, which will lead to spending of $57 million. Currently, they are in the middle of determining projects that the board might be interested in using the funding. The idea of creating two different positions – a broadband project manager costing $625,000 for five years and a grant monitor costing $285,000 for three years is also being considered for effective implementation of plans.
The grants monitor would be a contractual position. The person will be looking at the guidance for grant spending, ensuring record retention, and working with different agencies. On the other hand, the broadband project manager would be responsible for coordinating federal and state opportunities, providing oversight on various projects, helping manage multimillion-dollar fiber projects, and creating a strategic plan to connect as many properties as possible to the internet efficiently. So far, the creation of the two positions has been unanimously approved by the commissioners. In the coming few weeks, they will be holding several meetings to consider which other projects they would like to proceed with.
Besides direct government services, there are several other areas where the ARP allows the local governments to invest. This includes investment in launch programs and infrastructure to support small businesses and workers. While local government shortfalls vary considerably across the United States, there are some common factors that the leaders are considering while deciding how to spend the funds – which areas require immediate help? How to ensure there is no economic or racial inequality? How to ensure future growth and prosperity?
ARP funding is a great help in turbulent times. It’s now time for the local governments to act and ensure the money is spent well and there is an inclusive recovery from COVID-19.