Rescue Plan: Federal funding should be put to use

Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday the state has received the second half of its $1.35 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government. In doing so, he made an important point. West Virginia is simply not used to dealing with this much money.

“The second tranche of that has come in now,” he said. “We need to be prudent and smart in what we’re doing … We’ve been so upside-down in the decades of the past when we didn’t have any money to turn around. We didn’t know what to do. Now we have it going. With this we’re just going to try to do more and more and more goodness for West Virginia.”

Much of that goodness will come in the form of matching grants to municipalities for water and sewer infrastructure projects.

“Now, they’ve got to qualify and they’ve got to qualify within the terms and conditions of the ARPA bill in its entirety,” Justice said. “So, we’ll have projects that we’ll offer up and we’ll walk them through all the different steps and everything, and then see if we can get them qualified and everything …”

Good. Local officials will likely be grateful for the assistance.

But let’s bear in mind our state’s less-than-stellar reputation for spending federal tax dollars. May 1, we were again labeled a “slow spender” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, because we are still clinging to $60 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery money that was awarded to the state in 2018, to be used in recovery efforts after the 2016 flooding. (Yes, we’re still talking about getting folks the help they need from a disaster that occurred six years ago). The RISE West Virginia program that was supposed to be spending that money to help people is now under federal investigation.

We just don’t seem to be able to help ourselves when money comes our way, and another massive inflow has hit state coffers. Justice and the rest of the usual bureaucrats in Charleston will have to double down on efforts to ensure OUR money is spent quickly and as intended.


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