How That ‘Blue State Bailout’ Is Rescuing The Reddest States
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
Since May 10, the federal government has dispersed $105 billion of the $350 billion included in the American Rescue Plan to state and local governments. The Treasury Department says 1,500 entities have received that funding, the funding Sen. Mitch McConnell adamantly opposed for the entirety of the pandemic, calling it a "blue state bailout."
"This state and local aid program is going to provide transformative funding to communities across the country, and our Treasury team is focused on getting relief to these communities as quickly as possible," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement announcing the progress of the funding thus far. "In the past 11 days, almost a third of the funding has gone out the door, and I'm hopeful communities will be able to rehire teachers and help businesses re-open much sooner than otherwise."
Tens of thousands of state, local, territorial, and tribal governments can request funding. The Treasury Department details the uses of the relief: "Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control; Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs; Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses; Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequal impact of the pandemic."
Let's check in on how that "blue state bailout" funding is going so far. Arkansas' Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has $1.57 billion for the state, and at the Arkansas American Rescue Plan Steering Committee Wednesday said that they could do a lot with it, from vaccine distribution to expanding broadband. "It is unique in history. It's a unique opportunity to improve the infrastructure in our state from broadband to health care to cybersecurity, from IT to water projects," Hutchinson said. Arkansas received a total of $5 billion, with the remaining $3.5 billion going to local governments and other projects.
"We need all the help we can get. It wasn't until vaccines rolled out that we rounded the corner. I think money allocated for vaccines, not just vaccines, but the education of the public about the safety of the vaccines, is essential to continuing to solve what has been a really long year-plus problem," Rogers, Arkansas Fire Chief Tom Jenkins, a COVID-19 response force member, said. The steering committee chair, Larry Walther, agreed: "COVID response, decreasing the spread of the virus, getting the pandemic under control, vaccinations, contact tracing, those sort of the things are the number one," Walther said.
This week, Muncie, Indiana, Mayor Dan Ridenour, a Republican, announced the city's preliminary plans for using the first tranche of the $32 million his city is getting. Just over $2.7 million will help the city overcome a budget shortfall; another $2 million will help the city's restaurants recover; $2 million each will help small businesses and nonprofit organizations; and over $4 million will go to hotels. There's also funding for substance abuse and behavioral health treatment, public art, and neighborhood assistance.
In another not-blue state, Iowa, "both the city of Des Moines and Polk County are receiving nearly $100 million in aid, the most of any Iowa city or county. Twelve Iowa cities are receiving aid, and all 99 counties are receiving at least $600,000." That means each county is getting about $200 per resident, based on 2019 census data. The state as a whole is getting $1.48 billion in American Rescue Plan money.
Idaho is going to get $1.1 billion, and state officials have said it will be used to "substantially bolster the state's water, sewer and broadband infrastructure." Alex Adams, Republican Gov. Brad Little's budget chief, touted the five-year window for completing projects with the funding. "That's a huge benefit for a rural state like ours where it's going to take years for some of these large sewer, water and broadband projects to come to fruition," Adams said. Idaho's largest cities in the state are getting a total of $124 million, smaller cities $108 million, and counties another $314 million.
McConnell's home state of Kentucky is getting $2.183 billion. "Our economy is surging and strong," Gov. Andy Beshear (a Democrat) said. "We are in a strong position to sprint out of this pandemic with continued positive economic indicators and with this funding that will create jobs, momentum and a better quality of life in every corner of the commonwealth." The state had already planned to use "use 1.3 million to boost the state's economy, expanding broadband, delivering clean drinking water and building new schools," and is "expected to create more than 14,500 new jobs." The state's general fund will be shored up.
The Tennessee Comptroller, Jason Mumpower, talked to one county's leaders this week to tout the projects available with the funding. "This could include helping workers, households, small businesses, nonprofits and impacted industries, such as tourism, travel and hospitality industry. Yes. You can use this money to make grants to individuals and small businesses," Mumpower said. "We look out across the landscape of Tennessee on a daily basis and think, 'Where does the greatest financial peril lie?' It lies in water and sewer. It lies underground," Mumpower told the Wilson county officials, who are expecting $28 million in relief funds.
All these Republican states getting all that funding passed solely by Democrats in the Senate, benefitting from the commitment to good governance -- and acting like they're goddamned adults like Democrats continue to model.
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