State and local governments prepare for more stimulus funding

Published 1:50 pm Thursday, April 1, 2021

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By Neil B. McGahee

Managing Editor

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed House Resolution 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law.  It includes monetary relief totaling more than $1.9 trillion, with $65.1 billion aimed for government entities across the United States.
Thirty-two southwest Georgia counties are eligible to receive part of the more than $223 million in funding.

In the Tri-County area, Crisp County will receive $4,338,912; Dooly County $2,596,908; and Wilcox County $1,674,705.

Additionally 19 Georgia cities are eligible including Cordele, which will receive $3.31 million.

Cordele City Manager Roland McCarthy said no decisions have been made as to how the money should be spent.

“The City Commission hasn’t met yet,” McCarthy said. “They will ultimately decide how we use the money.”

If he had his way, however, McCarthy said he would spend the money renovating the nearly 60-year-old sewer system.

“It is ancient and it keeps breaking,” he said. “Roots keep growing into the sewer lines and rainwater gets in with the sewage so we are spending a lot of money treating rainwater. I would hope we could use the money where it is needed most. “

Much of the plan funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is aimed at large population areas for COVID-19 relief. Nearly $10 billion has been designated to serve rural and underserved communities in COVID-19 response. The Georgia Department of Community Health in Cordele is slated to receive $5.8 million.

“Crisp County schools will receive $18 million from the American Rescue Plan,” said school superintendent Cindy Hughes. “Nothing has been decided on how to use the $4.33 million. We’re waiting to hear from the Treasury Department as to how we can spend the money.”

In Dooly County, Superintendent of Schools Craig Lockhart said the school system has already received some of the money.

“We are still in the planning phase as far as that’s concerned,” he said. “But there are limitations placed on how we use it, so we will have to submit a budget before we can know what to do.”

Lockhart said if it were up to him, he would use the money to provide more resources to support students and teachers in the classroom; provide permanent pay raises for teachers and staff; and renovate facilities.

Wilcox superintendent Julie Childers said she want to use the money to close achievement gaps across all grades, offer additional social and emotional support via services and curriculum and employ additional staff for shot term assignments.