County-level ARPA cash freed up for native governments, Vermont delegation publicizes

After months of deliberation, the U.S. Treasury Department will allow federal Covid-19 aid funds made available to county governments to go directly to Vermont cities and towns, the state’s congressional delegation said Friday.

That means the Vermont city councils will receive an additional $ 120 million in federal funds.

The American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March, provides separate funding for state, local, and city governments. The parishes of Vermont were US $ 76 million appropriated. The Treasury Department designated counties as a form of local government and withheld county-specific money from Vermont because Vermont county governments have no mechanisms to obtain it.

Vermont counties oversee courthouses and sheriff’s departments, and their budgets are drawn up by elected assistant judges. These budgets are usually quite small. Chittenden County is the only county in Vermont with an annual budget of over $ 1 million.

So the Vermont Congressional Delegation urged federal officials to recognize the uniqueness of Vermont counties and to channel the county’s money to cities and towns that perform government functions that counties often perform in other states.

In a joint statement on Friday, Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch said, “With this updated Treasury rule, US $ 120 million for the state will finally go to cities across Vermont. and these resources will help meet the needs for Vermonters across the state. “

Leahy, chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to change the name during a subcommittee hearing in June.

“I would like to thank our congressional delegation for their advocacy and the Biden administration for their willingness to listen and adapt to Vermont’s unique county structure,” said Governor Phil Scott in a statement Friday. “This revision of the guidelines will allow our communities to take full advantage of the ARPA funding they are entitled to so they can make critical investments to meet their needs and help us better recover from the pandemic.”

It remains unclear how the funds will be distributed to the individual cities at the district level.

“Congress intended that these public financier funds would help local governments fill the gaps created by the pandemic, respond to the ongoing crisis and find a path to long-term recovery,” wrote Ted Brady, Executive Director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, in an email to VTDigger. “The towns and villages of Vermont appreciate the dedication of our congressional delegation and Governor Scott’s efforts to ensure funding gets through locally.”

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To get pictures in arms, governments flip to cash in pockets

Millions of people in the US who haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine may soon have a new reason to roll up their sleeves: money in their pockets.

President Joe Biden urges states and local governments to join those who are already spending dollars on shots. New York, the largest city in the country, began giving away $ 100 prizes on Friday.

The president, health officials, and heads of state bet the financial incentive will encourage reluctant people to get the injection, as does the contagious and potentially more potent Delta variant sweeping parts of the country – especially those with low vaccination rates – and how the number of daily vaccinations drops sharply from its April high.

Jay Vojno, who received his vaccination in New York on Friday, said he thought some kind of incentive was coming so he was willing to wait until it did to vaccinate.

“I knew they would, so I just waited,” he said.

Bradley Sharp was among those given an injection in Times Square on Friday. The prospective college student had put it off but knew he needed to be vaccinated because the school he will attend requires it.

“I thought I’d come here and get it today and get my hundred dollars because I’m going to get it anyway,” Sharp said.

Other states are also starting programs to distribute money. New Mexico helped introduce cash incentives in June and launches another $ 100 spending on vaccinations on Monday. Ohio is offering $ 100 to government employees who get vaccinated.

Minnesota’s $ 100 incentive kicked off Friday, despite several people visiting Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, hadn’t heard of the money.

Vidiya Sami, an office worker from the Richfield suburb of Minneapolis, went to the airport because it was the only place that offered the “one-and-done” vaccine.

“That’s why I chose it,” said Sami.

She said she delayed the injection because at first she was afraid to “read especially about … other people’s side effects”.

“And then I kind of made myself more paranoid by joining Facebook groups and reading everyone else’s symptoms after they got the injections,” she said. “Basically, I was just scared, but the more I researched you know the benefits outweighed the disadvantages.”

Incentives aren’t new: States have tried lottery-style giveaways, free beer, gift cards, and more. Whether they result in more people being vaccinated is not clear, said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a research fellow at the school’s Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics.

Turning to such measures suggests that governments face some degree of desperation in trying to get shots in the gun, he said.

“It is right to be alarmed,” said Schmidt. “It is right to think about how we can fix this ship.” He added that he understood the motivations behind cash incentives, but asked why they were needed in the first place.

“If we just stick needles in our arms, we haven’t made any real progress in the bigger picture, namely that entire communities lack trust in health systems or government,” he said.

The Biden government is counting on the incentives to work. In a statement this week, the White House cited a grocery chain offering its workers $ 100 to get the COVID-19 vaccination and then vaccination rates rose.

State and local governments can use the federal bailout funds to provide the $ 100, according to the statement.

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Associated Press Writer Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; David Martin in New York; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Andrew Welsh-Huggins of Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.

‘Transformative’ cash or simply plugging price range gaps? Native governments focus on federal stimulus plans

As billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds flow to state and local governments, those responsible are faced with an unusual mystery. How do you maximize a one-time gain when such a large portion of the municipal budget, from salaries to building maintenance, is used for ongoing expenses?

“This is a nice change,” said Hughey Newsome, chief financial officer of Wayne County, Michigan, in a speech at a Thursday briefing organized by the Volcker Alliance. “But the problem is, it’s a one-time inflow of money. We can’t give a raise. And if we make a capital investment, what about maintenance? We’d have to make sure we’re doing something in the operational budget to address the problem. “

Connected: Cities and towns are to receive $ 65 billion in incentives from Washington. Here’s what you should know about the American bailout plan

The COVID pandemic dealt a blow to budgets managed by Newsome and Mayor Kim Norton of Rochester, Minnesota, who also attended the conference.

Rochester’s economy depends on medical tourists who come to the famous Mayo Clinic – typically 3 million visitors a year, Mayor Norton said. At the start of the pandemic, the city cut $ 100 million from a $ 472 million budget but managed to avoid layoffs. Officials also delayed a tax hike and cut various user fees to help local businesses and households.

In Wayne County, home of Detroit, which had gone bankrupt just five years earlier, Newsome said officials immediately feared the worst. “We have started preparing for a recession like 2008-2009,” he said.

See: US local government employment is at a 19-year low

Even if this worst-case scenario didn’t happen, the county was still being beaten up. “When COVID hit, we were still faced with structural budget problems. We have curtailed income and are heavily dependent on property tax income, ”Newsome said.

That means Wayne County’s officials are putting a lot of thought into how to use the bailout money to balance the budget. The county is receiving $ 339 million – compared to a general fund budget of about $ 560 million – and is hoping to get a small portion of the money from the state as well. “We’re trying to be strategic because it’s transformative money,” Newsome said.

In contrast, Rochester will only receive $ 17 million direct, Mayor Norton noted, and “it will be spent to buffer the next five years.” City officials will prefer money for the next few years, which they expect will be the toughest, even as they prepare residents for a small tax hike.

The city continues to place great emphasis on helping those hardest hit during the pandemic, the reopening of the city, and economic development. Rather than using bailouts to directly support small businesses, Rochester is focusing on “getting people outside” to personally support businesses, Mayor Norton said.

Next read: The federal stimulus is a “lifeline” for communities hit by the Corona crisis, as the scars from 2008 remain