Editorial: Following the native cash of the American Rescue Plan

Imagine someone left you some money. It’s a fair bit of change – maybe even 60% of your annual salary. But it comes with strings. You can’t use it to pay your bills, and you can’t put it in your savings account. Your dearly late uncle wanted you to spend that money.

What do you do with it?

This is the puzzle that counties and parishes face.

The American bailout plan – the $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 recovery package – doesn’t just include $ 1,400 checks for individuals. It also includes approximately $ 350 billion for communities serving the same purpose on a larger scale. It’s about pumping something into the system.

In this case, it is not a trip to the mall or a deposit for a new car. It shouldn’t be difficult for a city or town to find a way to spend extra money. They all have a list of things they want to fund or approve that have been submitted but not approved.

The ARP formulates some parameters. Money can’t just cut taxes. It cannot sit in a pension fund. It has two goals: reimbursing the costs of the coronavirus pandemic and providing opportunities for projects that might otherwise remain on a wish list forever.

Funding estimates determine the scope. Pittsburgh, a city with an operating budget of $ 564 million, earmarks $ 355 million. Greensburg’s cash pot is $ 1.4 million. Other area projections range from $ 7,000 to $ 27 million. A total of $ 382.7 million goes to parishes in Allegheny County and $ 107.1 million to parishes in Westmoreland County.

That’s a lot of money to do things that weren’t financially feasible.

This opens up a wide range of possibilities. Part of this could be related to coronavirus. Grants to nonprofits that have been hampered by pandemic donation issues. Lending to businesses who know that if they can hold out until the world goes back to normal, they can get back on their feet.

Other options could coincide with the infrastructure improvements that the Biden administration has planned for a next destination. Water projects. Sewer pipes. Broadband access in underserved areas.

In this case, the main problem is not getting the money, which is expected to be released in one payout within two months and within a year. Making wise decisions about the best use of windfall is.

The Brookings Institution recommends creating a game plan based on questions such as how quickly help can be offered. Is it inclusive of who is being helped, does it work long-term, and does it work well with ongoing plans? To answer these questions, the think tank recommends the appointment of a council of public and private votes.

The government should never spend thoughtlessly. Spending people’s money should be measured and considered. In this case, it must be remembered that those thrown-off dollars are still taxpayers’ money.

But with the absolute must-spend demand, local governments rarely have the opportunity to bring people together and ask what they would do with an unexpected legacy.