By Lyra Bordelon
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is headed to President Joe Biden for a signature as of Wednesday, March 11.
Passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the approximately $1.9 trillion stimulus bill contains $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans, a significant expansion of child tax credits, COVID-19 relief packages, and much, much more. This includes benefits to local governments throughout West Virginia.
“West Virginia local governments are essential in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic because of the essential services they provide to their communities,” said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. “But local governments have been stretched thin by providing the essential services West Virginians depend on while facing drastic cuts in revenue as a result of this public health crisis.
Despite every Republican voting against the bill, including West Virginia’s Senator Shelley Moore Capito and West Virginia District 3 Representative Carol Miller, Democrats rallied behind its passage. Certain initially included provisions, such as a federal $15 minimum wage phase-in, were opposed and eliminated by some Democratic senators, including Manchin, but the final bill was passed by the slim Democratic majorities in both houses.
The package includes $4 billion in direct funding to West Virginia, and more through federal programs and grants. Small businesses are eligible for the $1 billion Paycheck Protection Program, broadband expansion will receive $138 million, as well as $2 million for internet hotspots to boost availability, $260 million is allocated for West Virginia child care, $677 million for local funding to cities and counties, and more.
Greenbrier County governments are expected to receive approximately $6.72 million dollars. Specific towns were also allocated funds, including:
– Alderson – $470,000
– “Falling Spring,” aka Renick – $80,000
– Lewisburg – $1.58 million
– Quinwood – $110,000
– Rainelle – $630,000
– Ronceverte – $690,000
– White Sulphur Springs – $980,000
According to Manchin’s press release, the funds and the bill:
– may be used to cover: expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, lost revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
– include “commonsense guardrails” to ensure this funding is not used to shore up pension funds or fill budget holes created under certain conditions.
– will be distributed in two parts: the first half will be issued within 60 days; the second half will be distributed roughly 12 months later.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have advocated for funding to support local governments directly and I am proud to have secured $677 million for cities and counties across West Virginia in the latest COVID-19 relief package,” Manchin said. “For the first time in as long as I can remember, local governments have the flexibility to use these funds to fix and upgrade sewer, water and broadband infrastructure without all of the bureaucratic red tape. This evening, I discussed the benefits of this funding with local leaders from across the state who truly understand the incredible impact this funding will make for our communities. I am committed to advocating for West Virginia’s local governments and will continue to work directly with them to ensure they are supported as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A summary of the plan can be found online here.