How should West Virginia spend American Rescue Plan funds?

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia has received half of the $1.35 billion that was allocated to the mountain state from the American Rescue Plan back in March.

Now there are some who say the distribution of the money to those who need it is not happening fast enough.

As the nationwide eviction moratorium expired, the Biden Administration urged state and local governments to take faster action to speed up distribution of COVID-19 relief money that could help.

Seth DiStefano with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy agrees.

“It is the responsibility of everyone from the Governor to our legislators to our county commissioners and city councils to really get out in the communities and meet people where they are,” said DiStefano.

Unlike CARES Act money, which Governor Justice had jurisdiction over, ARP funds have already gone out directly to local counties and municipalities.

West Virginia received $1.35 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act, more than half of which it has already received.

DiStefano says first responders, workers on the frontlines, the people who lost jobs that aren’t coming back, and those who and the most vulnerable of falling through the cracks deserve to be heard and drive how the money should be spent.

“Out of West Virginia’s 55 counties, we have only seen one county commission, being the Kanawha County Commission so far, proactively seek input,” he said.

He says some members of the house like Delegate Mark Dean (R-Mingo) have directly asked their constituents on social media and other outlets.

His question received more than 100 responses that included, more roads, cell towers, a rubber mulch factory, and high-speed internet.

One woman even suggested an investment in a large attraction to the area “like a Kings Island, Dollywood or indoor water park and call it Hatfield McCoy park or something that will attract people,” she wrote.

DiStefano says the state is down 30,000 jobs.

“Our economy is still struggling, and we are looking at potentially another spike in cases,” he said.

The second half of the American Rescue Plan funds will be distributed next year.

States have until the end of 2024 to appropriate ARP funding.

The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs has announced a listening tour from August 2021 to December 2022.

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