The reason you hear the most about it is the federal deficit. This pandemic has already resulted in billions of dollars in new spending.
Roni Wisdom, controller for Alamosa County in the San Luis Valley, shares many of these concerns, particularly about the level of national debt.
But the Republican adds that restrictions the federal government has placed on local aid sometimes make it difficult to address real issues like keeping the local airport afloat after people stop traveling.
The CARES Act prohibited local governments from simply depositing dollars into their general account to make up for lost tax dollars.
“And that’s where our problem comes in … that it can’t replace airport revenue,” said Wisdom. “For that we needed it, to keep operating costs up, just to break even.”
It took a pandemic to reveal some real vulnerabilities that local governments need to address, such as expanding rural broadband for students and remote workers. In the past, wisdom said that fast internet connections were treated as a luxury. Now they have been elevated to a critical infrastructure.
The House version of the American Rescue Plan includes $ 350 billion for states, local governments, tribes and territories. Those who support the request for additional local funding hope that the final package will include more flexibility in spending. They also appreciate that the plan doesn’t require local governments to be a minimum size in order to receive funding directly from the federal government.
Not all local governments require additional funding from the CARES Act.
With a population of just under 900, remote Hinsdale County received approximately $ 70,000 in CARES funding. There have been no layoffs or government vacation days, according to Greg Levine, the county commissioner.
He said they felt they were “in control”. The unaffiliated first-term commissioner said the small population was helping.
“It’s easier to manage needs than a larger community or county,” he said. “I actually feel sorry for them and can feel the frustration of people in other counties and communities when there is a lack of money and I need more.”
Similarly, Montrose County Commissioner Sue Hansen said the need for additional help in her county was not as great as others. She said business there was “doing pretty well” but was concerned about possible evictions.
“We don’t have a year-round homeless shelter. So we don’t really have places for these people to sort land, ”she explained.