States and cities are slow to access Democratic pandemic aid

Texas News Today

When Congress considered a major COVID-19 bailout package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors across the United States took “urgent action” worth billions of dollars to support their finances and revitalize their communities. I asked.

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

As of this summer, most large cities and states were from US rescue programs backed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports to be paid for under the law. I was not spending a single penny. According to an AP analysis, states spend only 2.5% of their basic quota, while large cities spend 8.5%.

Several state and local governments have reported that they are still working on a plan for part of the $350 billion that could be spent on various programs.

Biden signed it into law in March, but the Treasury didn’t publish money and spending guidelines until May. By that time, some legislatures had already completed budgeting for the following year, and the governor was not authorized to spend the new money. Some states have waited a few more months to ask the federal government for their share.

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Cities may delay decision making while seeking suggestions from the general public. In addition, some government officials were still looking for ways to spend their pre-federal pandemic aid, but were unaware of the urgent need for additional cash.

“There’s a lot of money out there. I think it’s a good sign that it’s not wasted,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher. He presided over the American Mayors’ Conference when more than 400 mayors signed a letter In which Congress was urged to pass Biden’s plans quickly.

The law promises to spend by the end of 2024 and empowers the state to spend the money by the end of 2026. Money not required or used by those dates must be returned to the federal government.

The Biden administration said it was not concerned about the initial momentum of the initiative. Gene Sperling, the White House’s US rescue program coordinator, said government aid “meets all-important needs” and “provides long-term firepower to ensure a sustainable and equitable recovery.” It is intended for both.

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“The fact that expenses can be distributed is a feature, not a bug in the program. It’s by design,” Sperling told the AP.

The Treasury has established an aggressive reporting schedule for field planning. States, counties and cities with an estimated population of more than 250,000 were to submit a report by August 31 detailing the past month’s spending and future plans.

More than half of the states and nearly two-thirds of the 90 large cities reported no initial spending. The government has reported future plans accounting for about 40% of the total funding. AP did not collect reports from counties due to the large number of counties.

To promote transparency, the Treasury also urged the government to post reports on “major public websites” such as homepages and popular coronavirus-enabled sites. But the AP found that many governments ignored the directive and instead pushed documents behind many navigation procedures. Idaho and Nebraska did not post the report online when contacted by the AP. Neither were some cities.

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Officials in Jersey City, New Jersey requested the AP to submit a formal open records request to obtain the report, which should not have been necessary. City officials in Laredo, Texas and Sacramento, Calif., also initially directed the AP to submit open records requests. Laredo later said that he was not spending anything on the AP. Sacramento is relentless and ultimately spends nothing, but provides a short report stating that it could spend the entire $112 million allocation to make up for lost income and provide government services. Down.

Within the state, the largest portion of initial spending was directed to support unemployment trust funds that were depleted during the pandemic. Arizona reported it had put about $759 million into unemployment accounts, New Mexico about $657 million and Kentucky about $506 million.

For large cities, the most common uses of money were to offset low incomes and to fund government services. San Francisco reported that it used its initial allocation of $312 million for that purpose.

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It was Pittsburgh that reported no initial spending, which in February joined other Pennsylvania mayors in urging Congress to pass “significant” aid to state and local governments.

“Parliament must act, and they must act immediately. Our community cannot wait another day,” wrote the Pennsylvania mayor.

Pittsburgh eventually had to wait for financial guidelines to be issued, comments from community members, and the city council to approve the spending plan. In the future, the city will use part of the federal Hurricane to buy 78 electric cars, build a technology lab at an entertainment center, and spend $500 a month on 100 low-income black women for two years. Start a paying pilot project and a guaranteed income program.

Federal funding also helps pay salaries to over 600 city officials

“Even if the money is not technically spent,” said Dan Gilman, chief of staff to Pittsburgh Mayor William Pedut, according to the Treasury’s reporting schedule. It was enough to postpone the dismissal. “

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Some officers are deliberately taking time.

Republican Governor Mike Parson of Missouri has opted not to convene a special session to ask for enough funding from the latest federal pandemic bailout law. So far, he has publicly outlined an offer: $400 million in broadband.

The person’s budget bureau chief said the administration would present further views to lawmakers convened in January’s regular meeting. By then, Dan Hogg, director of the Budget Bureau, said the state should have enough money from previous federal bailout legislation to cover the costs of fighting the virus.

“I want to find something that will benefit Missouri in 10 to 20 years, not just next year and next year. It requires some thinking and planning.”

Republican Representative Doug Ritchie, who heads the House committee on spending on federal stimulus, said he did not believe Missouri would need to spend all of its money on a US bailout program.

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“As long as we spend these dollars, we are running into ever-increasing federal debt or poor monetary policy,” Ritchie said.

Missouri was one of several states to request the first allotment. The other five Republican-led states (Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas) have waited so long that they are not required to file reports by the Treasury’s August 31 deadline.

Laura Potter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Treasury Department, said the small town wanted to prepare for a 30-day clock so that the dollar could raise money when it arrived in the state. South Dakota officials cited similar reasons for the delay. Colin Keeler, director of financial systems, said it would be difficult for a small town to take the necessary steps to apply.

“The state was in no hurry. The city wanted to receive them, but we had to prepare,” he said.

Copyright 2021 AP Communications. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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