We’ve all heard stories of people who win millions of dollars in the lottery, waste it and end up worse off than before. Every now and then we hear of people who win millions and use it to improve their lives or the lives of others.
State and local governments were put in that position when Congress approved the American Rescue Plan to mitigate the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic on state and local finances. According to a recent article by the Associated Press, local officials throughout the nation are taking their time before spending their windfalls. As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent any of the money from their ARP allotments.
Huntington is one of those communities that has been slow to spend its money, and that’s good. Mayor Steve Williams says economic development is a key focus for using the city’s $40 million in ARP funds.
“In essence, everything that we are seeking to do in the Rescue Plan is based upon the principle of economic development,” Williams told the city council last week.
One use of the money will be repaying and recouping the city’s loss of revenue during the pandemic. Williams said the city has an estimated $11.2 million loss in revenue, a number that was verified by the State Auditor’s Office.
After that, Williams wants to leverage ARP money on a 5-to-1 ratio to bring more investment into the city. Part of that will be the redevelopment of the former ACF and Flint Group properties in the Highlawn area. Even that comes with conditions, Williams said. Marshall University has announced plans to build a baseball stadium on the former Flint Group parking area between 5th and 4th avenues. The city is a financial partner in the project, whose development seems to have stalled.
“The stadium must be opened for use by the spring of 2024,” Williams told the council. “They can’t have a stadium open by the spring of 2024, then we will utilize that money elsewhere.”
In addition to these plans, Williams said each council member will have $100,000 for use on priority projects in their district. At-large members can use funds across the city. Each project must meet American Rescue Plan guidelines. Also, ARP money will be used to build a senior well-being center in the west part of Huntington.
Williams is taking the right course on the wisest use of this one-time infusion of cash. It’s too easy to fritter away sudden wealth. This money should be invested for the largest benefit for the most people, and the city is on the right track to do just that.